According to a recent study, public speaking is America’s biggest phobia. Over 25

percent of those surveyed say they fear speaking in front of a crowd. And yet students

on Marietta FFA’s speech team are facing that fear head on – and winning the fight.

In this, the first year that FFA students have competed in public speaking in many years,

advisor Kelsi Kamesch’s four member team, consisting of Jazmine Medina, Allie Hice,

Slade Campbell, and Maddi Magnus have traveled to several jackpot contests and

regionals. They’ve learned how to win and how to lose, and they’re better for their


Students competed in two categories: the Prepared Public Speaking division, where the

student writes his/her speech of six to eight minutes, delivers the speech, and then is

questioned, and the Creed Speaking Division, where students memorize and deliver the

FFA creed and then answer three minutes of questions from judges. Medina competed

in Prepared Public Speaking, while the other students competed in Creed Speaking.

“Jazmine busted her rear this year,” said Kamesch with pride. “She’s a transplant from

Corsicana, Texas, and when she walked into class the first day, I could tell she was

interested, but she was super quiet and didn’t speak unless spoken to.”

At Kamesch’s encouragement, Medina agreed to compete, so she prepared a speech

and entered in every contest the team went to.

“She didn’t have the desired outcome at our regional contest, but she saw an extreme

amount of growth,” Kamesch explained. “At the last contest, she admitted, ‘Miss K., it’s

night and day difference,’ and she’s ready for next year.”

Kamesch said that Medina has a great deal of potential. She just needed understanding

of how the contests work and more performance experience, which she now has.

“The reason I did public speaking was to allow me to be more comfortable when talking

in a public area,” Medina admitted. “The biggest takeaway from this experience was the

confidence I gained.”

Campbell, Magnus, and Hice entered in Creed Speaking in several contests. Hice

placed first at Lone Grove and second at Stroud, and Campbell placed first at both

Tecumseh and Dickson.

“Again, their results at regional contest weren’t what we would have liked,” said

Kamesch, “but the experience they gained this year was invaluable. Some judges at

region found me and told me that the kids might not have placed, but that they did an

incredible job and they were well put together, polite, and a credit to our school – some

of the best-dressed and best-presented, which has great for us to hear.”

For the kids, it was a year of trial and error, but most of all growth.

“Public speaking encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, and it showed me how

hard it is to prepare and speak at a contest because it takes a lot of time, dedication,

and effort,” stated Hice. “Seeing the rewards I got from the hard work I put in, I am

excited to continue this next year and be even better by applying the critiques I


For Kamesch, who’s in her second year of teaching, it was a year of firsts. Medina was

her first girl to ever give a prepared speech. Hice was the first girl in 25 years or longer

to bring home a first place banner, and Campbell the first boy to do the same.

When Kamesch was hired at Marietta, she was asked about public speaking because

the school wanted to offer more of it.

“Mr. Bazor told me that public speaking wasn’t an area of strength for him, and even if it

was, it’s just too much to offer shop, livestock, horticulture, leadership, and public

speaking and be really good at all of them,” explained Kamesch. “I don’t know how in

the world you would excel in all of those things and have any kind of home life. Mr.

Bazor just couldn’t spread himself thin enough to do it all, so I took on public speaking.”

As far as Kamesch is concerned, her goal with public speaking is to make kids

understand what a vitally important skill it is and for them to see application not just at

school, but in other areas of their lives as well. Public speaking can carry over into other

parts of FFA, like showing animals and ag mechanics projects because students must

often interact with judges. It can also carry over into other classes and student activities,

and eventually, into college and/or a career.

“Public speaking is hard. It’s one of those things that, if you’re good, you’re set – but it’s

something that you have to learn. Nobody is born good at it,” said Kamesch. “I want my

kids to be good at it, because I understand that it’s more than just bragging rights from

winning. It’s about knowing you competed against other students and that you’re better

because of it. It’s about building confidence along the way and looking back to see your

progress. And it’s about setting goals for yourself and working until you reach them.”

And that’s a lesson that a lot of folks could stand to learn.