Ninth Graders Complete Middle School Rite of Passage

Three ninth graders sat near the front of the stage in a nearly empty Johnson Theater. Director of the Ninth Grade Speech Program Mrs. Liz Staub had just finished providing a rundown on the order of events, and the students were waiting for their Middle School peers and faculty members to file into the auditorium. Once they were all seated, they could take turns approaching the lectern behind which they would deliver their ninth grade speech for a second time.  

Middle School history teacher Mr. Toy Savage ’71, sensing the nerves, sat down next to the three finalists before their faculty advisors arrived.

“When I was a speech finalist in 1971...I nailed it,” said Mr. Savage, eliciting smiles from the students.

Mr. Savage delivered his senior speech (they did not have the Ninth Grade Speech Program when he was attending the school) on the topic of the desegregation of schools through forced busing, a relevant matter at the time. Although he did not win, it was evident that the speech was a notable event during his academic career. These three will most likely be reminiscing on this moment decades from now.

The finalists, who reached this moment after receiving the highest scores from faculty judges, included:
  • Maddie Brooks - The title of her speech is “Conventional Funerals: Let’s Bury the Traditions.” Her faculty advisor is Mrs. Trish Hopkins.

  • Ella Deans - The title of her speech is “Teaching Cursive in Elementary Schools: Don't Write it Off Just Yet.” Her faculty advisor is Mrs. Brooke Fox

  • Leo Kamer - The title of his speech is “Private Prisons: A Threat to Our Justice System.” His faculty advisor is Mrs. Pollio.
As Middle School director Mr. Matt Sigrist mentioned in his opening remarks, “The speech program is about selecting a topic that is fundamental to each of you. All of you emerge from this experience feeling stronger, better, more confident, and ready to face new challenges.”

He thanked Mrs. Staub and members of the Middle School faculty for their roles in developing the speech program. Mrs. Staub welcomed everyone to the 2018 Royster Ninth Grade Speech Finals, before describing the program as one of Norfolk Academy’s distinguishing features.

“One of the highlights of this program is building relationships with a faculty member you might otherwise not have had the chance to get to know,” said Mrs. Staub.

She then introduced the four judges of the speech finals, which included:
  • Mr. Kevin Emerson ’90
    Vice President, U.S Pharmaceutical and Specialty Health with McKesson Corporation and parent of a rising first-grade bulldog  
  • Mr. Gary Laws
    Former director of Norfolk Academy’s Middle School
  • Mrs. Kay Stockwell ’85
    Vice-President of the Norfolk Alumni Association; Deputy General Counsel at Dollar Tree, Inc., and parent of three bulldogs
  • Miss Caitie Sullivan ’18
    The 2015 recipient of the Royster Ninth Grade Speech Award and currently one of three finalists for the Senior Speech award, Miss Sullivan plans to attend Columbia University in the fall of this year.
All three students gave their speech with an admirable level of poise and confidence. Congratulations to all of the ninth graders on officially completing the Ninth Grade Speech Program!