Although she’s only a sophomore, she doesn’t sound or act like it.
Valencia High School 10th-grader Cassidy Bensko, who is one of the leaders in her school’s speech and debate club, worked with her fellow classmates/orators to put together Santa Clarita’s first-ever World Speech Day event.
Held once every year in more than 100 countries across the globe, World Speech Day is celebrated in classrooms and spaces by tens of thousands of speechmakers, ranging in age from young to old, student to professional, according to Bensko.
“It’s really popular in school settings, but the event is open to anyone from around the world who wants to celebrates freedom of speech across the world,” said Bensko. “It allows for a platform to make a speech about whatever you want … (and) World Speech Day events have happened in California before, but there’s never been one in Santa Clarita.”
Scheduled to occur in two weeks, Bensko said the event will mark the climax to what has been months of work and planning for her and her speech and debate teammates.
“I run my (speech and debate team’s) Instagram and I saw an advertisement for it,” said Bensko. “I thought it would be a good way for my speech team and other Santa Clarita school speech teams to bring in other kids, and have everyone put their skills to the test.”
Open to people of all ages, with those already signed up ranging from 6th to 12th grade, Bensko thought that while there will be talented speakers performing, the event will not feature a competitive prize. Rather, it’s a time for her fellow “forensic-philes” to take a step back from the weekend tournaments, and spread the message of what speech and debate is really all about.
“Speech and debate is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Bensko. “It’s given me all the things I need to find agency in myself, to hold myself and other people accountable and to have value in what I say. It’s a dangerous time for free speech, and our schools don’t emphasize public speaking in a healthy way outside of getting students up in front of a room with a PowerPoint presentation.”
The event organizer has said 25 people have already signed up, but she wants anyone interested, regardless of their topic or speech background, to come and attend the free event.
“We’re hoping to get at least 30 people,” Bensko said. “And it’s also welcome to anyone who just wants to come by.”
The event is scheduled to take place March 15 at Global Prep Academy on 23310 Cinema Drive, with plans for speakers to perform from 6 to 8 p.m. If interested in signing up to make a speech or wanting more information about the Santa Clarita World Speech Day event, email organizers at [email protected].