Mackenzie Bradley of Toledo did not prepare for her first school public-speaking competition, not expecting to pass even the first round.
But she revised her tactics after winning the Toledo Christian Schools’ Great Shake competition a year ago and this time around perused all the questions that were handed out to the participants days in advance, making it to the top 11 in the fourth annual event Friday.
All that preparation was not for naught, the smiley 13-year-old seventh-grader said, adding that she had help along the way.
“I've already loved speaking, and I've been told I am very good at it,” she said. “[But] I stumble over a word sometimes, and I definitely feel like God helps me with this. Helps me with being able to speak to people and not stumble over my words. That's definitely getting better.”
A.J. Austin, 13, shakes hands with judge John C. Jones during the Great Shake competition at Toledo Christian Friday, February 16, 2018. Students were evaluated on things such as their hand shakes, poise, and discussion skills as they circulated through a variety of judges.
The girl, whose favorite subject is math, was one of 25 Toledo Christian Schools junior high students who participated in a “Shark Tank” style competition Friday. They were narrowed down to 11 in Round 2 held at the school and then progressed to the final three rounds held at several Toledo-area businesses. The 25 youngsters had cleared the initial round Feb. 2, in which 61 high school students participated — all who attended the school that day.
Cathleen Johnson, the schools' math teacher, said all high school students were expected to participate in the schools’ fourth-annual event. Mrs. Johnson, the initiator of the annual event, plans, organizes, and coordinates it.
“We all have to do it, but I enjoy it,” said A.J. Schuller, also 13 and a seventh-grader, who also competed Friday, making it to the top 11.
“I like all of it — just getting up there and talking to people. I also like writing the speech, but I like the talking part more. I think it will make me more confident in my ability to speak in public and also to get a better job,” he said, adding that his favorite subject is language and literature.
On Friday, the remaining participants greeted business community members to showcase handshake and conversational skills while they convince a panel of parent judges — the “sharks” — why they should invest in their product that was invented in the early 1900s.
The schools’ parents judged the participants based on eye contact, overall demeanor, posture, volume and pace of speech, as well as “the overall effectiveness of swaying the judges to invest,” said Jerusha Gioiella, the schools' director of communications.
Each round consisted of questions on leadership and “cold” questions on random topics, such as, “If you were to participate in the Olympics, what event would you participate in and why?” Mackenzie Bradley said.
“I'd choose volleyball,” Mackenzie said while sitting up straight and maintaining eye contact. “I always had a passion for volleyball. I am very athletic, so I feel I've been given a gift to play sports.”
“I like to speak from the heart,” she added. “When you speak from the heart, God tells you through the Holy Spirit what you need to say.”
The winners were:
- Round 2 (top 11): Mackenzie Bradley, Maggie McWhinnie, Claire French, Emma Johnston, Macey Wensink, A.J. Schuller, Calen Vander Vlucht, Lucas Patterson, Lydia Gioiella, Lydia Pinkelman, and Angelina Rospert.
- Round 3 (top 6): Lydia Gioiella, Claire French, Calen Vander Vlucht, Maggie McWhinnie, Lucas Patterson, and Macey Wensink.
- Round 4 (top 4): Lydia Gioiella, Claire French, Maggie McWhinnie, and Lucas Patterson.
- Round 5 (top 2): Maggie McWhinnie and Lucas Patterson.
The two finalists finished the day having dinner at the Chop House restaurant downtown, where the judges selected eighth-grader Maggie McWhinnie, 13, as the overall winner based on her conversation skills exhibited at the dinner. She got four Cedar Point tickets as the prize.
“I definitely think it will help me later on,” she said of participating in the event. “It will definitely help me in job interviews. It will help me in making speeches. And it will help me in my career, though I’m not too sure what I want to do. Psychology really interests me, or maybe becoming a business owner.”
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