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EMCS student represent Sooke

EMCS student Kayla Curtis competes in Rotary Public Speaking Contest, continues to finals.  - Britt Santowski
EMCS student Kayla Curtis competes in Rotary Public Speaking Contest, continues to finals.
— image credit: Britt Santowski

Last week Edward Milne community school student Kayla Curtis competed in the semi-finals of the Public Speaking Contest, and represented EMCS among the competitors from three school districts (61, 62 and 63). The competition is hosted by Rotary Club of Royal Oak Centennial.

Presenting students had a choice of eight topics presented to them by the Rotary and had three weeks to prepare.

Kayla Curtis was among the six students who will move onto the finals, which take place on May 7 at 6 p.m., at Spectrum Secondary.

“Kayla Curtis, Grade 11, representing Edward Milne Community School (EMCS) argued that university tuition in Canada should be free,” wrote Superintendent Jim Cambridge in his blog. “She spoke about the cost of education, and highlighted countries such as Finland who have abolished tuition fees.”

Kayla is a natural at public speaking.

“I like to talk,” she laughed, in conversation with the Sooke News Mirror, “and it’s really nice to talk for five minutes without anyone interrupting you.”

Enjoying speaking helps, as does a bit of adrenaline.

“It’s a little bit of a rush,” she admitted. After the initial jitters subside in the first moments of actually speaking, seeing that she has engaged her audience, she relaxes into her presentation.

For those interested in (or forced into) public speaking, Kayla offers this advice: “Go ahead, write it, practice as much as you can, and go in and do it. If nothing else, it’s going to be a great learning experience.”

The audience, too, tends to be sympathetic. “They want you to do the best you can,” Kayla observed.

In an area long identified as the top human fear (followed by death and spiders, in that order), Kayla approaches public speaking with discipline and repetition. Her “formula” for success is spending one-third of her time writing the speech, and another two-thirds practicing in front of anyone who will listen. Practice also results in speech revisions, which are ongoing.

Besides practicing her speech in front of friends, family and school supporters, she also engages her seven-year-old brother, Jesse.

“He had to listen to me practice at least a dozen times. I don’t think he knew what any of it meant, but he did give me a very nice round of applause.”

“I found the whole event inspiring,” said Vice Principal John Lyall, adding this was the first year EMCS has participated in the event. “She was great,” he said, referring to Kayla’s speech at the event. “She’s a very strong candidate. She wrote a very polished essay.”

According to the Rotary Club of Royal Oak Centennial’s website, “The scholarships offered by the Rotary Club will be $1,000 for the best presentation, $750 for the runner-up, $500 for the third candidate and three ‘consolation’ scholarships for the remaining three finalists.”

Tickets are available from the hosting Rotary Club, and cost $15. The finalists’ presentations will be followed with a finger-food reception at which the winners will be announced.

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