Speak Up: Lessons from Public Speaking Camp

by Judi Rosen, Parent of 2016 Speak & Tell! camper

How often do any of us get to learn a life skill?

How many times have you had an idea, but not the tools to express it?

For as much as we all try to slow down the spinning wheels in our kids’ lives, their schedules are often demanding, and the opportunities to gain real tools can be hard to find. They are asked to write in a variety of styles, and to speak in front of their peers in school throughout the year.

Eventually this will translate to their adult lives, when the honing of communication skills becomes especially more valuable to both their personal and professional lives.

Our son, Max Rosen is a Sophomore at Taylor Allderdice. This past summer, he took the opportunity to slow down his wheels and without question, he gained the benefit of picking up on some extremely valuable life skills.

For four well-staffed, entertaining and amusingly hardworking days, high school students from the Pittsburgh area were brought together to focus on telling stories. We enrolled Max in Luminari’s “Speak & Tell!” camp.

The campers went from concept to paper, and from paper to speech. Camp Director Beth Dolinar led them through the process from start to finish with great skill, compassion and wit!

She enlisted the assistance of other local professionals—including a broadcaster, a storyteller, a corporate communications trainer and a relaxation teacher– to illuminate concepts that were valuable to their learning.

By Friday, each of the students was able to stand in front of a crowd to communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas not once, but twice.

Max’s first speech was about the cooler aspects of boredom, which he read from notes while trying to look up and connect with the listeners when possible.

For him, boredom can lead to discovery, it lets his mind open, and encourages him to wonder. In that process, he finds ideas that lead to his passions which engage him in his life and cause him to think about the future.

Speech number two was given without notes to read from. Max recalled the thrill of a very close crew race that he rowed in at Allderdice last spring.

You could feel his excitement, and the energy was palpable because he was recounting something that was meaningful to him.

For the campers, the differences in their two speeches were lessons in themselves to gain awareness of how to move through the written word and how to think on your feet, both skills that they will call upon frequently.

It was a wonderful example for them to have both the experience of speaking with and without notes, and all of the kids were able to do that remarkably well by the end of the week.

Perhaps the most memorable moments for me as a parent were watching Max practice these new skills with confidence, while sharing his thoughts with humor and craft.

Equally as meaningful was the reception that the teens gave to each other.

All week long they explored ideas in an encouraging environment.

And by that Friday, it was nothing short of heartwarming to watch as they cheered one another on!