From the Bronx to Yale
The Power of High Sschool Speech
Society loves labels. You get labeled because of your sex, race, religious beliefs, and even what neighborhood you grew up in. So it’s not surprising that kids who live in the Bronx learn from an early age that very little is expected from them. Basically they will grow up and not reach their full potential, probably get in trouble with the law, have some kids, be poor, and then die.
But there’s a program at Bronx Prep High School in South Bronx that is actively seeking to make a difference. Speech is basically about performing dialogues and monologues; kind of like acting or speaking to the wall. It’s a sport because it requires preparation and practice. The participants go to tournaments and compete against other schools. Judges then decide who can communicate his or her story in the most effective way. There are no props; each participant only relies on voice and body movements.
Thousands of students compete and move on to the national championships. Many get to even perform on national TV and the best performers are offered college scholarships. So in South Bronx participating in speech and debate isn’t just a hobby; it’s actually a shot at a better future.
One student at Bronx Prep says that the best thing about speech is not having to be yourself. Ironically, pretending to be someone else actually allows you to get to know who you really are.
Sarah ‘Rosie’ Rosenberg and Lou Cardenas are the speech coaches and they make an amazing team. Lou remembers that it was Rosie who literally rescued him and took him off the streets. She could have chosen to work at elite schools even in other countries, yet she chooses to stay in South Bronx and open doors of opportunity for the children that live in the projects. Rosie takes a look at the rough, defiant students who are on the verge of getting expelled and teaches them to listen through speech.
During the making of this film, the students travel to Yale for three days of competition. On their way there, most of them spend time practicing their lines. At Yale they all get to participate but by the end of the first day, some will be eliminated and will spend the rest of the weekend supporting their teammates. Watch this now.