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Oak Lawn High School"s Performance in the Round “To Sleep with the Angels” (about a fire that happened at Our Lady of the Angels) placed fourth in the IHSA State Competition the weekend of February 19 in Peoria. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn High School"s Performance in the Round “To Sleep with the Angels” (about a fire that happened at Our Lady of the Angels) placed fourth in the IHSA State Competition the weekend of February 19 in Peoria. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Community High School speech team goes to state

By Kelly White

Oak Lawn Community High School’s Speech Team has been showcasing its talent.

The team at the school, 9400 Southwest Highway, Oak Lawn, competed at the Illinois High School Association state competition the weekend of February 19 in Peoria.

IHSA is a state high school association in the United States that regulates competition in most interscholastic sports and some interscholastic activities at the high school level for the state of Illinois.

“State was such an amazing experience; not only did I break into the finals and placed sixth in my event, but I couldn’t have done it without the amazing supportive teammates I had throughout the way,” senior, Emma Matthews, 17, of Oak Lawn, said. “I will never forget how much fun state was, while also being nerve-wracking of course. I’m sad to be leaving, but I wish everyone good luck next year.”

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OLCHS Speech student, Emma Mathews, 17, of Oak Lawn, placed sixth in Radio Speaking at the IHSA State Competition. She stands alongside speech teachers, Mike Olsson and Matt Capriola.

In order to advance to the state level, Oak Lawn Community High School’s Speech Team finished in first place at sectionals earlier this month and advanced in six events. The Performance in the Round also snared first place.

The following students proudly competed at state: Mariam Chuli and Melanie Cabrera for Dramatic Duet Acting; Layla Nemri for Extemporaneous Speaking; Orlando Ramirez for Original Comedy; Mariana Salazar for Original Oratory; Maya Quinonez for Prose Reading; and Emma Mathews for Radio Speaking.

“Students gain confidence in themselves by being a part of this activity,” Matt Capriola, OLCHS Speech co-head coach, said. “No matter if they are a state champion or someone brand new. Giving students the power to express themselves and be heard does a lot for them. Plus, they feel supported in doing so. I know I’m biased Speech kids are the ones who are going to change the world.”

Capriola, who also works as an Instructional Assistant at OLCHS, teaches speech alongside English teacher, Mike Olsson. This is the first time Capriola and Olsson have brought home a Sectional Championship as head coaches.

“We give all the credit to our talented, dedicated students,” Olsson said.

“This is particularly special for Mike and myself because we have been head coaches for five years and this is our first Sectional Champion win under our leadership,” Capriola said. “The OLCHS students that are involved feel supported by their coaches. We set high expectations that our students enjoy the challenge to meet them. We are lucky to have a large coaching staff so they are all able to get individual attention. Working with these skilled adults helps make their experience worth wild.”

During the IHSA competition, OLCHS students advanced in seven of the events and four made the finals: Mariana Salazar was second in Original Oratory; Mariam Chuli and Melanie Cabrera placed sixth in Dramatic Duet Acting; Emma Mathews placed sixth in Radio Speaking; and the Performance in the Round “To Sleep with the Angels” (about a fire that happened to Our Lady of the Angels) placed fourth.

Some topics addressed were: Toxic Masculinity within the LatinX community and a mother and daughter experiencing Alzheimer’s.

Overall, OLCHS placed 14th out of 73 schools.

“Through speech, students learn a variety of skills,” Capriola said. “They, of course, learn the expected performance and public speaking skills. Other things they take a way are working as a team, time management, developing empathy through connections with literature, how to improve their writing skills, and how to gain confidence in themselves.”

Students were grateful for the opportunity, including OLCHS junior, Mariana Salazar.

“State was a little scary yet so rewarding,” Salazar, 16, of Oak Lawn, said. “Even being so far from home I still felt very much at home. It felt incredible being able to compete with a speech I felt so strongly about and sharing that with others. I can’t wait to do it all over again one last time next year – knock on wood.”

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