Teen’s speech on suicide prevention makes a mark


For her time in a public speaking contest, Kelly Wilks did pretty well.

The 16-year-old took home first place in the senior’s division at the annual Petrolia Lion’s Club effective speaking contest Sunday.

A Grade 11 student at LCCVI, Wilks said her English teacher encouraged her to enter. As a member of Lambton Youth Theatre Players, Wilks has experience in front of a crowd, but said public speaking is quite different.

Kelly Wilks
Kelly Wilks

“There, you are wearing a mask,” she said. “You’re a different person playing a character. Here, you are giving everyone else a piece of yourself.”

Participants are required to do two speeches.
First, they are required to prepare a 5 to 7 minute speech.

Helping a friend who wanted take his own life was the topic of Wilks’ speech.  She outlined the experience, which she said had a profound effect on her.

“It was a big thing for me to save a boy’s life.

“No matter how quiet or how loud your voice is, you can make a difference,” Wilks said.

The second part of the contest sees participants thinking on their feet by delivering an impromptu speech on a topic drawn out of a hat.

Wilks found the second speech to be much harder. She had to talk about the most difficult school project she’s ever faced. But she said it was a great learning experience.

Calling herself a nitpicker, Wilks said the impromptu forced her to relax and just get up and do it.

“Be yourself. No one is going to be disappointed in you for trying, or not trying,” she said. “You don’t lose, you gain more.”

Carol Stankevich, a contest organizer, said it’s a win-win for young contestants, helping them build confidence and effective communication skills.

“Winning is not the most important thing,” Stankevich said. “The most important thing is that they have the courage to stand up and take part.”

A total of 11 youth took part in the contest. Intermediate and senior winners go on to the regional contest in March.

By Pam Wright