Stan Polit (BS10) Plans Public Speaking Conference at Northwestern for Chicago Students

Stan Polit (BS10) Plans Public Speaking Conference at Northwestern for Chicago Students

Stan Polit

Stan Polit (BS10), who is well known at SESP for his outstanding Convocation speech two years ago, received a $5,000 grant to run a conference for Chicago high school students on public speaking and leadership. The conference will be held on May 5 at Northwestern.

The goal of the event is to help urban high school students learn strategies for successful public speaking and gain insights regarding the ways they can harness those skills in their everyday lives. “I firmly believe that public speaking skills empower individuals to recognize their potential as leaders. As a result, the event will also serve as a leadership summit that will help the students learn how to use these skills to empower themselves and their peers,” says Polit.

The summit will include a series of seminars with nationally recognized public speaking educators as well as an oratorical contest. To ensure that the contest is a learning experience, judges will work with students to provide them with insights on how to enhance their speaking skills, according to Polit.

The idea for the conference started when Polit was a junior at Northwestern, where he competed for the speech team. As a competitive public speaker during high school, he had been shocked that virtually no students from Chicago Public Schools competed at the state tournament. “I knew I wanted to find a way to create the same kind of public speaking opportunities for these students because I knew the profound impact that experience had on my high school development and ability to succeed at a school like Northwestern,” he says. As a result, he applied for and received a grant from the Andrew Family Foundation for the project.

“Public speaking is near to my heart because I was a four-year competitor for the Northwestern speech team and currently serve as a graduate assistant coach for the team at George Mason University, one of the nation's top programs,” says Polit.

Polit wanted students to experience the event on a college campus “because a secondary goal of the tournament is to teach the students how public speaking can be a tool that helps them become leaders during college,” says Polit.

Promote 360, the SESP student organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of minority students, is involved in planning the event. Polit reached out to Promote 360 because he knew that the project aligned with their values and mission. “The president and organization jumped on the idea of collaborating, and together we have refined and expanded the scope of the event. For example, Promote 360 had the idea to make the oratorical contest also have a leadership slant. Promote 360 has been a major force in turning this project from an idea to an event that will hopefully be very impactful for the students,” Polit says.

The organizers of the event are selecting approximately 30 CPS students, each of whom will have to be nominated to apply. Then each student will come to the conference with a prepared speech on the topic of civic engagement. The final round speeches will be open to the public.

The Andrew Family Foundation supports projects that focus on educational development and outreach efforts. “They were very interested in the project and will hopefully be represented in the judging panel for the final round,” says Polit. The funding will be used for trophies, food and tournament materials including public speaking resources that students can take with them.

Currently Polit is a master’s student at George Mason University in the Communication Department, in addition to working as a graduate assistant coach for the competitive public speaking team. His responsibilities include preparing students for regional, national and international competitions.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 3/23/12