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Norfolk Academy encourages and pushes students to use their voices to make things happen, to ask questions, find answers, and express ideas. 

One way those lessons take place is through the school's intensive public speaking program. Starting in first grade, and all through Lower School, boys and girls of the day stand in front of their peers in the classroom and teach for a few minutes, with the guidance of their teacher. In Middle School, ninth graders make persuasive speeches of up to 7 minutes in length, typically in Price Auditorium in front of the entire Middle School. And 12th graders culminate the program with Senior Speeches, longer presentations in Johnson Theater that celebrate each student's accomplishments in public speaking.

Senior and Ninth Grade speeches began anew this month, with slight safety modifications needed amid the worldwide pandemic.

Harry '22 made the first Senior Speech of the school year on September 1. Speaking from the Johnson Theater podium, with his fellow seniors in attendance and the rest of the Upper School watching on Zoom, Harry discussed NCAA rules on transfer eligibility, arguing that immediate eligibility would be beneficial for transferring student-athletes. His advisor was Ari Zito, who chairs the English Department and is an assistant varsity basketball coach.

One day after Senior Speeches began, Sallie Clarke '25 stepped to the Price Auditorium podium and gave the first Ninth Grade Speech of the school year. With her fellow ninth graders in attendance and seventh and eighth graders watching via Zoom, Sallie Clarke discussed the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage, ultimately arguing an increase from the federal rate of $7.25 an hour would boost the economy. Her advisor was History Teacher Dave Cameron.

Both sets of speeches will continue into the spring, with more than 200 students all together making presentations. The culmination of both programs is the Speech Finals, during which judges determine the top presenter for the year. 

To learn more about Academy's speech program.

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