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Transcona speaker captivates world championships

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A Transcona girl and her longtime public speaking partner proved their mettle in South Africa.

Transcona resident Jaclyn Flom and St. Vital’s Ella Thompson, both in Grade 12, took separate paths to get to the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships in Durban earlier this month.

Both students made it to the world competition’s final rounds, with Thompson finishing 10th overall and Flom 13th. Flom was fifth in interpretive reading division and seventh in the after-dinner speech, while Thompson scored a fifth-place showing in the impromptu event.

Competitors are required to compete in the parliamentary debating, impromptu, and interpretive reading events, and then must choose either a persuasive speech or an after-dinner speech. Though there can be some serious topics brought up over the course of the competition, it doesn’t always need to be that way, said Flom.

"In the after-dinner category that I did, you’re speaking to a fake organization," she said. "I was speaking to a group of male debaters on how to date female debaters, so it’s more of a comedic speech. That’s where my strengths lie."

Both students have a similar history with public speaking, beginning debating in Grade 4 and entering their first competitions in Grade 6.

"Whenever we’ve had to have partners preplanned, we’ve always been partners," said Flom. "It was a great way to end off our history of trips with one another."

Both Flom and Thompson feel the exercise of public speaking has prepared them well for life post-high school, with Flom noting her capacity for intellectual discussion and critical thinking has improved. As well, Thompson said her overall demeanour has been affected.

"One of the big things is confidence, to get up in front of a crowd and speak," said Thompson.

"In Grade 6 and 7, it was really intimidating to get up and talk in front of a big group of people. But it did help to build confidence and feels more natural.

"Now, I don’t really get nervous talking in front of people."

Flom qualified through the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Contest in Calgary in October after a first-place finish overall. Thompson punched her ticket with a second-place showing at the National Public Speaking Championships in Winnipeg in February.

"We definitely picked up new skills from preparing for the qualifying tournaments…as well as preparing for the worlds itself," said Flom. "As well, the connections you make at the actual tournament are amazing because you meet (people) from around the world, you bond with other Canadians, and you get the chance to meet a lot of the teachers and coaches from around the world as well."

After graduation, Thompson plans to go into sciences, and is struggling to make a decision between life sciences and engineering.

As well, she has four schools, including Stanford, that she is considering. Flom, meanwhile, will study at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto beginning in the fall.

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