MHS senior lands All-State honors for original speech
In just her first year competing, Yessenia Alvarez Zamora has already garnered the highest and most selective honor offered by the Iowa High School Speech Association after the MHS senior recently brought home an All-State distinction for her original oratory performance.
“It was kind of shocking, but I was very happy in the sense that while I was feeling confident that my speech was a good speech. I thought it was a story worth telling,” Zamora said. “I was able to say it well enough that people would want to hear it.”
Zamora’s All-State speech was described by judges as a “love letter” to her parents and education, and as she says, crafting the intimate and revealing performance was initially a challenge.
“It’s a very personal topic,” Zamora said. “Deciding how much to share, and whether or not that was okay to share was one of the bigger things when it came to composing my speech. I went through a couple of drafts of them just throwing them away or deleting them.”
Her persistence and determination in composing the speech certainly paid off, and when it came time to deliver the performance, Zamora said she was confident in what she had put before herself.
“I thought, ‘Okay, this is a speech that deserves to go to All-State. It’s just up to me and how I say it,'” she said. “The pressure was on for me to say it well enough for it to go through, but I thought that the message behind it was perfect.”
Though Zamora has had brushes with public speaking as a high school student school board representative, where she speaks at regular meetings updating the Marshalltown School Board and public about ongoing activities at the school, her All-State speech was one of the first times she found herself trying to engage with an audience in a personal manner.
“I haven’t spoken to appeal to people. I usually just informed (them),” Zamora said. “So this was something very different, and learning how to really convey the details of my story, like the emotion within it, that was something different that I had to learn how to do.”
The speech saw wide appreciation and recognition not only from judges who nominated her for All-State honors, but also from peers and onlookers, which Zamora says was a major highlight of the experience.
“It’s very humbling, and an honor to have people that, even if they aren’t your judge, just sitting in the audience come up to me and say, ‘That was really good,'” she said. “It really inspired me.”
At the Iowa High School Speech Association’s All-State festival hosted by University of Northern Iowa on Monday, Zamora’s performance even drew top marks from guest critic and newswoman Nicole Tam of KCCI, who indicated she saw a lot of herself in the speech.
“She felt very inspired by my words, and she really liked my speech,” Zamora said. “So just having that, knowing that it’s relatable to people and that people are feeling more heard and seen.”
While Zamora was generally bashful about the praise brought about by her speech, she suggested that it may not be the last time audiences see her take to the lectern.
“It’s been recommended to me that I give it as a commencement speech,” Zamora said. “But as far as public speaking and talking to people, it’s my first year doing speech, but I think I’ve come to like it. I’ll probably look for something, maybe in college to see how it is, but I just think being able to have that empathy and talk to people and be able to really move them is a general good skill to have.”