Stoughton student places third in national Speaker’s Idol contest

Grade 11 student Jessica Baumgartner of Stoughton Central School placed third in the high school category of the national Speaker’s Idol competition on Thursday, and will receive an iPad as a prize.

The national contest was hosted by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, and drew over 300 submissions from across Canada. Jessica ended up as a finalist in the Grades 9-12 category, and she spoke on the topic of sexual assault.

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“I feel everything went very well. Honestly, I was amazed I even had the opportunity to be a part of it,” she said after the finals were held online on YouTube.

Jessica loved the comments made by the judges after her speech, and felt they gave her a huge confidence boost with their encouraging words.

“Especially now I will be keeping my eyes open for speech opportunities,” she said.

The first judge, Dr. Samantha Nutt, said Jessica’s speech was “incredible”, and commented, “You started out strong and I felt you maintained that all the way through. It was brave, it was positive and it was powerful.”

She thought Jessica did well with a first-person scenario then with general comments about the issue of active consent, and hopes Jessica will be able to give this speech again in other environments, “because I certainly hope that a lot of young men in particular get to hear your very powerful message.”

Judge Matthew Gottlieb commented also, saying Jessica’s speech was “spectacular”, and said he was shocked at her use of Simon Wiesenthal’s quote. “I wasn’t expecting it, and because of that, it grabbed me instantly and you didn’t let me go the entire time.”

He also noted she had a way of reaching her audience in a deeply emotional way, and said her speech “was well done, surprising and powerful.”

Of her speech competitors, she said, “Everyone had so much to say. I was definitely able to learn and really grasp what the other competitors were talking about, as well as learning the importance of their topics.”

Asked if she might go into the contest next year, her Grade 12 year, she said she will consider it, knowing now what hard work goes into selecting a topic and figuring what to say.

Each of the 11 finalists (five in the Grades 6-8 category and six in the Grades 9-12 category) had to use the following quote by Wiesenthal: “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.”