The self-driven strategy to break out of her shell in high school finally paid off for junior Morgan St. Jean. She attended the Crossing Borders: Issues and Resolutions Conference and Debate March 6 and 7 in Seattle.
St. Jean impressed the judges at the conference and won the Top Speaker award, which included a $1,000 prize.
“I am $1,000 less in debt for next year,” St. Jean said.
St. Jean was one of only 16 college students from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada accepted to attend the competitive conference.
American and Canadian students were teamed up and assigned a national issue to research. St. Jean and her partner, senior Thomas Kearns from the University of Alberta, investigated the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy.
They each had one month to individually complete research and prepare a speech about the topic from the respective country’s viewpoint.
“Communicating thro-ugh e-mail and making sure our research matched was really hard,” St. Jean said.
She said working with Kearns was a learning experience.
“He was always willing to answer my questions about Canadian policies,” she said.
At the conference, each student gave an eight- minute speech and answered questions about the topic from one of the four moderators and judges for 45 minutes.
The students were then evaluated on their speeches and how well they answered questions.
“Most of the people there did not have debate experience; I was very surprised,” St. Jean said.
She was one of only two students with prior public speaking experience.
Being involved with speech and debate all four years of high school, she wanted to continue her journey in college.
“I was a shy kid in high school,” St. Jean said. “I wanted to conquer my fear, so I thought I would try speaking in front of people that I didn’t know.”
At Linfield, St. Jean is involved in the Speech and Debate team. She also wants to help others excel in public speaking.
“Anyone can do it,” St. Jean said. “It’s an incredible skill to have.”
Traci Mathies, adjunct professor of theatre and communication arts, works with the Speech and Debate team and believes the award was presented to the right person.
“She is the hardest worker on the team,” Mathies said. “She is always willing to share her expertise. It really shows what kind of person she is.”
Along with working in the Linfield Speaking Center, St. Jean helps the McMinnville High School speech team. Her giving attitude with speech and debate is noticed by those around her.
“Morgan has this willingness to not be in it for herself and to help better others,” Mathies said.