After placing fifth in the speech state qualifying tournament Sunday at Leland High School, Palo Alto High School’s speech team captain is headed for the state championship.
Senior Stephanie Lee was the only member out of the 8-person speech team to qualify, as well as the only member to make it to the elimination round in her category of Original Prose and Poetry, in which speakers are given 10 minutes to present an original piece of writing to a panel of five judges.
Lee’s piece, a dramatic monologue, was titled “Pennies for Lemonade” and tells the story of a young girl who, through managing a lemonade stand, learns the value of friendship when she and a close friend go through a difficult time.
“I think the reason why I wanted to write that piece that way was because I really like the idea of friendship, and the idea of needing someone,” Lee said. “I like to explore that idea because I feel like it’s something that everyone can relate to, to feel really lonely at your lowest points and feel like everyone has abandoned you. But then it’s gonna turn out alright in the end, and regardless something really great is gonna come out of it.”
According to Lee, she did not believe that she would enter the elimination round, but she was happy to be in the tournament all the same.
“I was just thinking, this is such as special moment to me, and I’m just honestly happy to be here, because I didn’t expect to get this far,” Lee said. “It was probably the best performance I’ve ever given, I can really say that because I remember feeling just so grateful for the opportunity to even stand in front of a panel of five judges and then give my speech.
Lee said that at one point, her own emotions carried over to her performance.
“I remember at my climax, when my character cried, I actually did cry,” Lee said. “When I sat down one of the girls who had seen my piece four times before turned to me, and she was like, ‘that was so good!’.”
Fellow teammate Kaitlin Ho expressed similar sentiments about Lee’s performance.
“I know Stephanie was practicing a lot, and her OPP [Original Prose and Poetry] is really strong, so I’m really glad she qualified,” Ho said.
Sending only one person, or sometimes none at all, to the state championship is not unusual, Lee said.
“Our school team is pretty small compared to some other schools,” Lee said. “Some of the powerhouse schools have maybe anywhere from 50 to 150 or 200 people on their team, we have maybe 15 on our team [the speech team]. The probability of us sending someone to states is smaller compared to the other powerhouse schools, so we usually send one person to states, if we’re lucky.”
Lee said she is confident about her chances of success at the state championship despite the tough competition.
“I don’t know if I’ll do well but I’m in the mindset that I’m so happy to be there, nothing else really matters,” Lee said. “I’ll put my heart into every single performance, and I’ll do my best to represent the team, and this league, but other than that I’m just there to have fun.”