14th annual David Jones persuasive speech contest held at Parkland

Photo by Lindsay Cox | Second-place winner of the David Jones Speech Contest, R.A. Kram-Ahmed, presents his speech on the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, an organization which works to combat mental illness by monetarily supporting relevant scientific research.

Photo by Lindsay Cox |
Second-place winner of the David Jones Speech Contest, R.A. Kram-Ahmed, presents his speech on the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, an organization which works to combat mental illness by monetarily supporting relevant scientific research.

Peter Floess

Staff Writer

On April 27, 2017, Parkland hosted the 14th annual David Jones Persuasive Speech Contest.

Gabrielle Brownfield won $500 for the Living Alternatives Pregnancy Resource Center organization in Illinois and Indiana.

Ramy Akram-Ahmed won $250 for the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, which supports grants to study the causes and to improve the treatment of mental health.

Blake Bryan won $100 for Relay for Life, the community fundraising part of the American Cancer Society.

Leon Lewis-Nicol won $50 for the Africa-America Institute, an organization that is trying to promote African development by providing greater educational opportu-nities to African youth.

Arsen Avagyan won $50 for Feeding America, a national network of food banks.

Finalists win an amount of money equal to the amount donated to their charities. The money is donated by the Rotary Club of Champaign County.

Prior to taking the Speech class, Lewis-Nicol had some experience public speaking at his church in Ghana. As a music performance major he is learning how to interact with an audience as well. The David Jones speech class “was a good experience”, says Lewis-Nicol.

“[It]helped me on controlling my nerves,” Lewis-Nicol said. “[It] gave me an indication of how good I am speaking in front of [a] new audience…[of[ how comfortable I am speaking in front of people.”

Contestant Neal Shannon, whose charity was CarbonFund.org, agrees with Lewis-Nicol on how the contest helped him to become a better speaker.

The contest helped Shannon become a better public speaker “because I got to speak in front of people that I didn’t know from class,” Shannon says.

Prior to taking a Speech class, Shannon has had a management position where he has had to lead group teams.

Zayd Jawad, who won $250 in 2016 for the charity The Children and Nature Network enjoyed being in the speech contest, because he was not that comfortable with public speaking.

“I got to grow as a speaker and meet a lot of wonderful people as well,” Jawad says.

Jawad would encourage people to enter the David Jones Speech Contest.

“I would encourage people to push past their limitation, Jawad says. “Put ideas that they believe in out there, to feel like they are doing something good.”

“This contest is open to all students who have taken any Communication class,” communications instructor and main contest organizer Jody Littleton says. “You do not have to have taken public speaking, Communication 103 to be eligible. We offer it the same time every year so if you are around next year please consider entering!”

Littleton believes that entering the speech contest, even a person is not a finalist, is a valuable experience.

“Even if students are not a finalist I would recommend that they put this on their resumes,” Littleton says. “It shows employers that they are willing to take risks and work on their communication skills.”

Communications instructor Kerry Bean agrees with Littleton that for students the experience of the speech contest is a wonderful idea.

“People are so anxious about public speaking,” Bean says. “The more a person gets to do public speaking, the less anxious they become. I have been pleased seeing the students rise to the occasion of the Contest. For some of them, it is the biggest audience they have ever had to speak to in public.”

In Bean’s experience, the students “rise to the occasion during the contest and knock it out of the park. When the students realize they can be effective speakers in public… they take off.”