Brownstown students promote good causes in speeches


Sarah Rollins became emotional while talking about her cousin, who was born premature and diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Ryder Humphrey talked about Wounded Warrior Project, while Laken Reynolds discussed how she benefited from the Angel Tree program.

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Sharing personal stories isn’t always easy, but they were among the 22 students in Karla Rieckers’ speech class at Brownstown Central High School who did just that.

The hope was for their classmates to be persuaded enough by their speech to choose their nonprofit organization to receive a donation.

A day after all of the speeches were given in the auditiorium, the class came together and chose Rollins’ organization, United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Indiana, to be the beneficiary.

Rieckers asked all of the students to donate at least $2, and she matched the total collected. The result was $140 going to the cause close to Rollins’ heart.

United Cerebral Palsy is dedicated to meeting the needs of children and adults with cerebral palsy so they can enjoy an increased quality of life, according to The Greater Indiana organization provides support and services to children and adults with cerebral palsy and their families throughout each of Indiana’s 92 counties.

This was Rieckers’ third year doing the nonprofit persuasion speeches. She has her speech class do them every trimester.

After hearing all of the speeches, she and Marcia Anderson pick a winner, but Rieckers lets the students vote and make the ultimate decision.

“Some of the stuff they come up with … I’m trying not to cry because they really make personal connections,” Rieckers said. “This is their last speech for me, and they just do a really nice job.”

Rieckers will send the donation to United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Indiana and include a letter explaining her class’ project.

She has received letters from the organizations that have received donations from her classes in the past, and she keeps those posted on a bulletin board in her classroom.

They all have personal connections, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to autism to mental illness to cancer.

In some cases, Rieckers knows about the students’ personal stories. Occasionally, though, she learns about it for the first time while listening to the speeches.

“For them to be able to have the confidence to get up and share that with the rest of the class, that really says something about them,” she said. “They are putting themselves out there.”

When she first started having her speech class do persuasion speeches, Rieckers said it didn’t have the meaning she wanted.

While talking to a former student, she learned about a nonprofit speech assignment done in a college class.

“I’m like, ‘That’s a good idea. I think I want to try that,’” Rieckers said.

She put her own twist on it and has made it the last assignment every trimester.

“I thought, ‘What a neat opportunity with all of the organizations that we have,’” she said. “I tell them that’s a way that they can put something down with their donation that they are giving back to the community. It’s a community service thing for them.”

If students don’t want to take English or literature their senior year, she said they can take speech. A bonus is they can earn college credit by taking the class.

Each speech has to be at least 6 minutes long, and the students create a Google Slides presentation explaining their cause and including a visualization, such as a short video clip.

Reynolds said it meant a lot to her to get the opportunity to share information about a cause from which she has benefited.

As she and her two sisters grew up, their mother was in prison, and they would receive a present from her at Christmastime through Angel Tree.

“At that time, we were young, and we would think it was from her,” Reynolds said. “Just the opportunity to get a present from her knowing she couldn’t be there with us just overfilled us with joy.”

In high school, she has been able to give back through the Angel Tree in the library for students and staff members to buy Christmas gifts for children in the community.

“For me to be able to give back just makes me so happy, and I feel like I’m doing something good for the community because I was once there, and I know how much it impacts a child’s life,” Reynolds said.

Even though Angel Tree wasn’t chosen to receive a donation, Reynolds said her classmates know more about the organization.

“Maybe some people in this class would reach out and buy a present and help more people,” she said, noting 2.7 million kids have parents who are incarcerated. “It just takes one more person to make a child’s Christmas joyful, and they may not understand that some people don’t have the same opportunities or home lives that they have.”

Reynolds said she’s glad Rieckers is going to continue having her classes do the nonprofit persuasion speeches.

“I feel like it helps us get to know each other better because we get to see a side of each other that we may have not ever seen or they learn something about the other person,” Reynolds said.