Stoughton student a finalist in national Speaker’s Idol competition

Jessica Baumgartner, a Grade 11 student from Stoughton Central School, will share her ideas on how to create positive change in the world on May 13, as she competes in the 10th annual Speaker’s Idol final, which will for the first time feature students from across Canada.

She will be one of six high school students chosen to compete in the finalist round of Speaker’s Idol, an annual speech competition hosted by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC).

article continues below

In an interview, Jessica explained that her principal forwarded an email to her about the speech competition, and while unsure at first about entering it, she was excited by the prospect of being to talk about any subject she wanted.

“I chose to talk about sexual assault and how it’s still a problem, and how things need to change,” she said.

She at first just submitted her written speech, then was asked to submit a video of her giving the speech.

“They had a big Zoom call with all of us, and they had us say it again,” explained Jessica, noting she was selected from there to be one of the six finalists for Grades 9-12.

“When I entered this competition, I didn’t think I would make it this far. I was happy that I was able to enter,” she added. “It’s so thrilling that I made the top six.”

Jessica is part of her school’s SRC, so she has done some public speaking through her role there as well as in some debate competitions, and last fall she was the emcee for the school’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.

This year’s competition is being held virtually and will be watched by hundreds of Canadian students and community members. At a time when society is polarized and hate crimes are on the rise, young people are leading the way in speaking out and making a positive difference.

The competition will include two rounds – the first featuring five students from Grades 6-8 and the second featuring six students from Grades 9-12 – and will include a panel of judges who will determine the best speech from each round. The finalists were chosen from a total of more than 300 students across Canada who submitted speeches.

This year, the students based their speeches on the Simon Wiesenthal quote, "The history of humankind is the history of crimes and history can repeat. So information is a defence. Through this we can build, we must build, a defence against repetition.”

Jessica said her family and friends are all very excited about the finals for this competition, and she noted with a chuckle that her principal is almost more excited about this than anyone.

Her plans for post-secondary education are to go to law school, to focus on family law.

The speech competition will be an online event on Thursday, May 13, from 1-2:30 p.m. (EDT) (11 a.m. Sask time)

As well, here is the link to tomorrow's event: