Posted by Bob Saline on Dec 05, 2019
“The Four Way Speech Contest held by the Harrisburg Rotary Club was the best yet! Thanks to new leadership in the Rotary Four Way Committee, we saw record involvement and more powerful speeches than in previous years,” says Club President Joyce Libby.
This year, new Rotarian Toni Lynn Mark took over the Four Way Speech Contest committee. Toni said, “I genuinely find great joy in collaborating with others to build something powerful. I try to say “yes” whenever I can because I have seen what magic can happen when you bring together great people. So, when past president Andy Rebuck asked me to join Rotary in April 2019, I said yes. Then, when current President Joyce Libby asked me to run the Rotary Four Way speech contest only a few months later, I said yes again.”
Although Toni played a lead role in the speech contest, she notes that she couldn’t have done it without help. Toni said, “Although she’ll never take credit for it, President Joyce Libby and I took this on together. As professional career-driven mothers, she and I hit it off immediately, and we would often call each other after a school visit just to chat about the courage of the students. We rooted for them like they were our own. She made it easy to pull this together, even if I had only been a Rotarian for just a few short months. It reminded me that good leadership is something that should never be taken for granted.”
By visiting three local schools, almost 20 students expressed interest in and started to prepare speeches for the Four Way Speech Contest.  Toni and Joyce worked extensively with the students and visited weekly to further refine and polish the speeches. When it came down to deciding, Toni and Joyce had 12 thoughtful and well-developed speeches to choose from. Choosing the final six was difficult. Toni described, “The students were so brave to share their personal struggles, and I felt honored to be the recipient of their message. I wanted to give the students and fellow Rotarians the same moving experience I had when I heard them stumble through their speeches for the very first time.”
The speech contest was held in the presentation auditorium at Toni’s institution, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology. This room allowed students to speak in a professional environment in front of friends, classmates, family and Rotarians. Additionally, it was livestreamed to any of those that could not make it, including the families of the speech contestants.
Harrisburg Rotarians were impressed with the high caliber of the student speeches. Toni notes “After the speech contest, I was incredibly proud of the students. To share such personal journeys to so many strangers was a brave act. As they beamed with pride as countless Rotarians congratulated them, I knew I was able to help facilitate something special. That was the power of saying “Yes”.”
We look forward to seeing how our Club’s three contestants fair in the mid-levels and, hopefully, the finals!
BREAKING NEWS:  Tsahai took first place and will advance to the finals.  Gabrielle took 3rd. Congratulations to our winners and all who participated.
The Rotary Club of Harrisburg’s speech contest was conducted in a lecture hall of Harrisburg University.
Folks in the image, from left to right: Judge Dr. John “Ski” Sygielski, President, Harrisburg Area Community College – Rotarian; Student Junior Rodriguez – Harrisburg High; Judge Douglas “Doug” Fisher, Business Coach, Author and Instructor at Central Penn College & Past Toast Master Extraordinaire; Student Tsahai Johnson (winner) – Sci Tech; Student Gabrielle Mendoza (2nd place) – Harrisburg High; Judge Virginia “Ginny” Roth, President, PPO&S – Rotarian; Student Amina Hall (3rd place)  - Cougar Academy; Student Alice Fuentes – Cougar Academy; Student Johnise Barber – Cougar Academy
Toni L. Mark Four Way Speech contest chair, Harrisburg University – Rotarian.