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Helena takes fourth with after-dinner speech on world stage

Helena Thomas, student at the Bermuda High School for Girls, at the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championship in Australia (Photograph supplied)

A speech from a Bermuda High School for Girls student about a fictional lonely hearts club won fourth place in a public speaking competition last month.

Helena Thomas delivered the speech in the After Dinner speaking category of the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships in Canberra, Australia.

Ms Thomas, 16, said the audience was meant to be members of the club she created — a “group of singles trying to find people in a world where corporatised and monetised romance has skewed the definition of love”.

The school said placing fourth was a “huge feat for a student from Bermuda”.

It added: “Usually, only the top 10 per cent of competitors make it into finals, and at Worlds, this is the top 10 per cent of the top high school speakers globally.”

Ms Thomas also participated in the interpretive reading, debate and impromptu categories in the competition, which she attended with BHS senior public speaking coach Jennifer Burland Adams.

The two arrived in Australia for the competition six days early, which the school said “allowed them to settle into the time zone, 13 hours ahead of Bermuda, and fight off jet lag”.

Participants competed eight times during a three-day period.

They also visited the Canberra Zoo and Aquarium and Questacon science centre and learnt traditional Australian bush dances.

Ms Thomas, who enjoys long-distance running, met people from Morocco, Canada, the United States, South Africa, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and other countries during the competition.

She said: “Everyone was super nice and I’m glad to have kept more of their contact information to keep these friendships alive.

“I learnt a lot in Australia from judges and other competitors, which I will use to improve for the next competition.”

Ms Burland Adams said Ms Thomas “has proven that we can hold our own with countries around the world”.

She plans for more Bermudian students to compete in next year’s competition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, especially if it occurs during a scheduled school break.

Ms Thomas and Ms Burland Adams thanked the English Speaking Union and an anonymous donor for supporting Team Bermuda at this year’s championships.

More than 100 people are expected to travel to Bermuda for the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Competition this autumn.

BHS and Saltus Grammar School will be hosting this event, which will take place from October 17 to 20.

Those interested in sponsoring, judging or volunteering during the competition can contact IISPSC2024@gmail.com.

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Published May 16, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated May 16, 2024 at 7:57 am)

Helena takes fourth with after-dinner speech on world stage

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