Episcopal High School

Senior Speakers Program 2016-2017

Program description:

The Senior Speakers program is an all-new program that replaces and expands upon the former Senior Homilist program. Each student accepted to the program will receive some initial training in the basics of public speech, and then work with a team of faculty and peers to edit, develop, and rehearse a speech at one of the following events:

  • A class meeting
  • Admissions events
  • Chapel
  • Parent events
  • Senior Retreat
  • Commencement
  • An after-school speakers’ forum
  • A TED-style video presentation

Note that while not homilies, a class meeting presentation, speakers’ forum presentation, or Commencement address would still need to be inspirational in tone and message... encouraging… a call to better living. Presentations to prospective students or parents would have particular content needs designated by the organizing group. There will always be expectations about appropriateness for the EHS community, no matter the audience or venue. To be clear, this is a learning process, in which participating students must be open to reworking what they have written.

What would a class meeting presentation be like?

A speech that is directed towards one particular grade level could be presented at a class meeting for that grade level. It might be a speech directed to freshmen about becoming involved or trying new things. It might be a speech directed to the senior class about becoming an independent adult and transitioning to college.

What would be a typical topic for a presentation at an Admissions function or parent group?

These types of presentations generally have the particular purpose of sharing information about Episcopal High School in a way that is positive and enthusiastic. A speaker might be asked to talk about involvement in one of the pillars or share perspectives on student life at EHS.

What would be appropriate for a homily in Chapel or at the Senior Retreat?

A homily is a short sermon. In the context of a worship service, the purpose of the homily is to inspire the listeners. Since the general precept is that Chapel is intended to be a time of spiritual reflection and worship, homilies specifically speak to us about the presence, role, and actions of God in our midst, and they draw from readings from the Old or New Testament. There is a particular obligation that comes with preaching in a worship service that is unlike speaking in other venues: in worship services, we endeavor to preach the Word of God, which is a humbling responsibility. Homilies are not about us – they’re about God. Topics that are not particularly spiritual or which could push hot buttons for our community would be more appropriately presented in a venue other than Chapel. There is certainly no expectation or need for a homilist to have experienced a life trauma in order to effectively preach the Word of God. In fact, the hope is to move away from that type of homily.

What would be appropriate for a Commencement address?

A Commencement address is a speech presented to one’s classmates, their parents & guests, and the EHS faculty at the graduation ceremony. It might reflect on where the class has been, and it would certainly aspire to inspire the class as it moves forth from EHS.

What would be well-suited for an after-school speakers’ forum?

Similar to the after-school ETV presentations, a speakers’ forum would take place after school on a Wednesday. Topics would be suitable for all ages in our community and might include thoughts about politics, student life, growing up, etc.

What would be suited for a TED-style video presentation?

A TED talk would be directed to a world-wide audience. ‘TED” stands for “Technology, Entertainment, and Design,” and this platform was originally created with the philosophy that ideas have the power to “change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.” This venue option for Senior Speakers will be a variation on TED. Senior Speakers for this venue will make a live video recording of their speech, in front of the Senior Speakers group, and will then have a copy of their recording to take home to their family, include in a college application, keep for posterity, etc. Note that it could be possible to video record senior speeches in other venues as well.

Application process:

  1. Interested rising seniors complete the application and submit it to Mr. Binder by September 15. The application includes a place to indicate your preference of speaking venues and a 250-300 word “first draft” of your Senior Speech.
  2. Applications will be reviewed by a team of faculty members. Applicants will be notified of their application status and venue placements by the end of September.
  3. If a Senior Speaker changes the topic from that submitted in the “first draft,” she or he may re-apply to the program, but there is no guarantee of a space.
  4. Late applicants will be considered on a space-available basis throughout the school year.

Things to keep in mind: Speakers must be willing to have proposed topics rejected and their texts edited. This is not an open platform. Speaker venue preferences will be considered, but the faculty team will ultimately make the final decision about venue. The team may decide that a speech is not ready to be presented at all. Senior Speakers who have not completed their text by their due date may not be able to postpone to a later date.

Initial training and Commitment:

The Senior Speakers program is a year-long commitment. Soon after being accepted into the program, the Senior Speakers will meet to learn more about the mechanics of writing and delivering a speech. They will also learn more about the different types of presentations, audiences, and venues, and how those considerations will affect the types of speeches they will give. At this time, students will discuss with Mr. Binder the speech dates available for the different venues. Before each speech date, the group will gather to listen and give the speaker their feedback. The presence of each Senior Speaker is needed for each of these group meetings. Of course, in the weeks leading up to each individual’s scheduled speech date, she or he will meet separately with Mr. Binder, Rev. Holden, Rev. Kochenburger, and/or other faculty members to refine and practice their speech.