Speak & Tell! Teens in their Own Words

Enjoy some of the speeches from our 2018 Speak & Tell! teens:


Gaiatri Potdar

Gaiatri Potdar

Gaiatri Potdar on Painting

Good afternoon, my name is Gaiatri, and I would like to talk to you about my passion, painting. I love painting because it is very relaxing and allows me to be creative. By a show of hands, has anyone ever come home from a long, stressful day at school or work and just wanted to crash? Well, that’s basically my life. But instead of sleeping or doing nothing, I like to paint.

Ralp Waldo Emerson once said, “Every artist was once an amateur.” I firmly believe in this. Even after two years of painting, I’m still an amateur. I have created more than 30 paintings, mostly in watercolor and acrylic paints. I am yet to try oil, as it is quite difficult and requires many years to learn. Even though I don’t know how to paint to oil, I’m willing to learn and I soon will.

As I said earlier, I started painting two years ago. Well, I had gone to India to visit my grandparents and my family likes to travel within India so we went to a suburban town called Junnar. There, I met a woman who enjoyed Warli art (Warli painting is a style of tribal art mostly created by the tribal people from the North Sahyadri Range in India.) She showed me how to do it, and I instantly fell in love with this breathtaking artform. And ever since then I’ve been painting. I encourage you to find a passion in some form of art just as I did. I also hope as I grow older, my love for painting will never cease. Thank you.


Sebastien Pamphile

Sebastien Pamphile

Sebastien Pamphile on Value and Earning

I’ve been collecting Jordans since I was seven-years-old because in my community who ever had on the newest pair of shoes had to earn them.

What do I mean when I say “earned?” Well, I come from a background where money has to be worked for no matter what! My parents taught me that I would have to work for whatever I wanted in life. As a seven-year-old boy who was fascinated with the NBA, Michael Jordan shoes always interested me because they were so creative.

Community Value – In my community when someone came outside with a new pair of Jordans, or “Js” as we call them, there was a a sense of pride and respect. I can remember going outside with my first pair of Jordans. I was proud because I could say that I bought them and that made me feel good. Today I have more than 65 pairs of shoes, mostly Jordans, and I can honestly say I earned every pair.


Jack Maurer on Basketball

Jack Maurer

Jack Maurer

Good afternoon. My name is Jack Maurer and I would like to start off by asking you a question. Have you ever been on the Phantom’s Revenge at Kennywood? If you have, you that feeling that you get when the car is at the top of the hill and the suspense and excitement that you feel right before the car goes down the hill. If you do know that feeling, then you exactly how I feel when I play and watch basketball. Show of hands, who likes Pitt Basketball? Well, there was one particular Pitt game last season that is a perfect example of why I love basketball.

West Virginia came to play Pitt on December 9, 2017. It was the first time the two teams had met since 2012 and the 185th meeting of all time, so there was a LOT of excitement in the building. By half time, West Virginia had built up a commanding 45-27 lead. Down by 18 points and having no momentum, most Pitt fans gave up. But in the next 6 minutes, Pitt went on a 15-9 scoring run, cutting their deficit to 12. Then nobody scored for nearly 3 minutes. The game remained with West Virginia in the lead 54-42 until the 11-minute mark, when the Panthers EXPLODED and went on an 11-2 run. Just like that, Pitt was back in the game. With the score at 56-53 in favor of West Virginia, the clock ticked down to 5:30. The score was 61-59. Pitt had come back from 18 point deficit and they were now only 2 points down. During the next 3 minutes and 50 seconds, only 4 points were scored and West Virginia now led 64-60. The last 1 minute and 40 seconds were filled with many close calls, but when the clock hit 0:00, West Virginia has won 69-60. Even though Pitt lost, this was and still is one of my favorite games to watch because of the excitement and suspense it provided. Basketball is not only my favorite sport to plat and watch, but because of its extreme suspense and tension, it is my passion.


Ally Fishell on Cooking

Ally Fishell

Ally Fishell

“Cooking is about passion, so it may look slightly temperamental in a way that is assertive to the naked eye,” – Chef Gordon Ramsay

There are many different activities I enjoy doing, but above all, cooking is my favorite. Cooking is something that always comes naturally to me and I enjoy greatly.

Cooking is considered a passion by many people around the world and it’s something everyone should enjoy more often. According the Huffinton Post, only 28% of Americans believe that they can cook and 90% don’t enjoy doing it.

Many people believe that you can only cook if you are really good at it and if you have been doing it for a long time. Anyone can cook, and it is something people should start doing more often. You can experiment with different flavors and you don’t have to worry about messing up because it is very easy to learn from your mistakes and improve upon dishes each time you create them.

There are no set rules when cooking, you can create your own flavors by changing or adding things to different recipes to create it into your own unique dish. Cooking is something you never get bored with because each time is a new experience. So whether you’re an experienced chef or someone who’s trying to cook for the first time anyone can always improve and create something unique.



Ayisat Bisiriyu

Ayisat Bisiriyu

Ayisat Bisiriyu on The Joy of Cooking

One of my biggest passions is cooking, and I think specifically one aspect of cooking that I am particularly very passionate about, is that everyone should learn how to cook. It honestly shocks me that amount of people I know that hate cooking or rarely cook themselves. And I kind of get it. Who wants to spend an extra 30 minutes at night cooking dinner after school, sports and any other extra curricular activities. It’s so much easier to microwave a burrito or eat whatever your mom or dad brought home from your favorite restaurant.

But sometimes, when you do that, you lose the joy of eating something YOU made. You miss the joy of opportunity of learning more about patience and taking time with this things you do. But most importantly you forget the importance of eating real food, and connecting with your friends and family throught it. When I was around 9 or 10, I never really cared where my food was coming from. I always just ate whatever was given to me whether it was grilled chicken and greens, or salad from the local Wendys. If it was put on the table, I would eat it.

But soon after that, I stated to have the desire to make things for myself. After spending a lot of time watching the Food Network, and looking at cookbooks, I finally decided to try making something for myself. The first thing I ever made was sugar cookies, and they were underdone, mushy and WAY too salty. But I loved them. I loved them because it took 40 minutes to make them. I loved them because it gave me the opportunity to bond with my siblings. I loved them because although I’m sure she was gagging in her head, my mom said that I did an amazing job with them.

What made the cookies good were the memories, and the time and care that wnet into making them. And that’s the way it is with everything I make. When you take the time to create a meal for yourself, you become more appreciative and grateful for the food you have. And don’t get me wrong, I love going to my favorite restaurants to grab a meal, or microwave a frozen burrito when I’m too hungry to wait for anything.

But sometimes, and my family would agree, I do not want to pay a billion dollars for a singular piece of tofu at the Whole Foods hot bar. I’m not saying that everything you eat should be homemade with ingredients that you can find in the rock mountains of Siberia, but everyone should take the time, a couple of days a week to cook for themselves to immerse themselves in the pleasure of boiling, baking, slicing, sautéing and simmering. Because when you learn how to cook, you learn how to appreciate where your food comes from and how to bring people together. After cooking something you can look down to your plate and say “I made this.” It took me 30 minutes, I’m tired and my kitchen’s a mess, but I created this meal for myself, and I know what’s in it, and now I can share this with my friends and family. Everyone on this planet needs to eat, but only a portion of those people have the ability to cook in the comfort of their own home. So be grateful for the things in your kitchen, make memories and cook.


Victoria Semenov on Dogs

Victoria Semenov

Victoria Semenov

Roger Caras once said, “dogs are not our life, but they make our lives whole.

When I was little, I had always dreamed about getting a puppy. However, I never thought that my family would ever consider getting a dog since we never had time for one.

About a month ago, my great-grandmother passed away. She had dementia for the past 5 years and my grandmother had been taking care of her. To alleviate my grandmother’s sadness over losing her mother, we decided it would be nice to get her a puppy. This is when my family decided to get a Shih Tzu named Tickled.

We picked him out online from a breeder in Missouri and he traveled 11 hours by van to get to us. He was only 10 weeks old when we got him, being only a little bit bigger than a can of soda.

Before we picked him up, I did a lot of research on Shih-Tzus. I came to the conclusion that a puppy would be the perfect companion for my grandmother and it would help to ease the pain of losing her mother and cheer her up.

According to the article written by Kayla Matthews in the Huffington Post, research shows that having a pet can help improve self-esteem, alleviate negativity and loneliness, and reduce stress. A study of approximately 3 ½ million people in Sweden showed that owning a dog can lead to a longer life by bringing joy and providing companionship. A dog can also motivate someone to be more active, since they have to walk their dog. People who own pets appear to be more social than those who do not.

Even though Tickle was only 10-weeks old when we got him, he taught me so much. He showed me the importance of responsibility. He taught me how important it was to stay on a schedule, which was difficult at first. More than anything though, he made me laugh. I was definitely happier whenever I was with him. When he would sleep, his tongue would hang out of his mouth. He loved belly rubs and he would always fall asleep on his back. Our two weeks with Tickle ended quickly and before we knew it, he was off to my grandmother’s house.

Regardless of who was taking Tickle, giving him up was one the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do.


Tommy Yanovich

Tommy Yanovich on Languages

Hi, my name is Tommy and I speak three languages: Russian, Romanian and English. Now you may be wondering, Tommy how do you know three languages? Well, it’s pretty simple, my mom is from Moldova where they speak Romanian, and every summer for my whole life I would visit family there. I know Russian because I was born in Belarus, which is a country about the size of New York State and it is located next to Russia – and they speak – Russian.

As for English, now that is a whole different story… I was 9-years-old starting the fourth grade in America, and I wanted to make friends to hang out with and talk to but that is a very difficult thing to do when you cannot communicate. So I took ESL classes and had a tutor to speed up the learning process. It was difficult at first, but when I got the hang of it I could finally “sort of” talk to people. I had conversations mainly filled with an accent and frequent mess ups, but no matter what, I would get my point across. It took me a little over four months to get to the point where I could talk to people naturally. And the only reason I remember how long it took me to get the hang of English is because of a fourth grade project I completed in which I actually did a pretty decent job. I could finally communicate in English without it sounding like complete gibberish. And so now I am standing here telling you my life story in a language, that five years ago, I couldn’t even speak. Thank you.

Katie Spavero on Voting

Nick Anglin on Immigration 

2018 Speak & Tell! Camp Photo Albums: