Public Speaking Center helps students at Sammamish High School

Professor Matt McGarrity at Sammamish High School

Professor McGarrity talks to students at Sammamish High School about planning and delivering a speech.
Photos by Erica Thompson

Professor Matt McGarrity brought five undergraduates from the Public Speaking Center to Sammamish High School to help AP students refine their speeches. This Friday, the high schoolers will partake in a Speakers’ Corner, which is modeled after Hyde Park in London, where people bring step ladders to stand on and speak whatever is on their mind. Although Sammamish High School will have their event be slightly more structured, the best speeches will move on and be presented to the whole student body.

“We need to talk to each other, and students need a forum for ideas and a way to bring ideas that are important to them out,” said AP World History professor Rob Hallock. “I’m hoping this becomes sort of a civic holiday at Sammamish where doing public speaking and talking about important issues is what we do here and we have days dedicated to that.”

Hallock said when he comes to the University of Washington campus, he periodically sees students standing out in the middle of Red Square giving speeches. He thought, “I need to meet the professor that teaches that class.” He began talking to Professor McGarrity and could see how experienced he was, and decided to invite him to the school as part of the program’s problem-based learning grant.

“The University of Washington is a public university, therefore it has a public mission,” McGarrity said, “and so one of the chief aspects of the University is to be a resource for this state. This was a great opportunity to provide university assistance to a local public school.”

After a 30 minute talk by McGarrity that addressed planning and delivering a speech, the five UW students led small groups to listen and give feedback to the high schoolers. Here’s what they had to say:

Evan Seguirant's group




Evan Seguirant (Communication and Political Science major) said, “I came to help because I feel that brilliance doesn’t mean a whole lot unless you can communicate yourself and your thoughts. Verbal communication is huge whether it’s an interview or a presentation, it covers all spectrums. Public speaking has helped me a lot personally so I really wanted to help other people develop.”

Heather Wise's group






Heather Wise (Communication and Public Affairs major) said, “I’ve been public speaking for many years and it’s always been a huge fascination of mine. I always see a lot of people who are just scared to death of it and you really don’t need to be. I like to be able to help students become a lot more comfortable with public speaking in general and to try to change their perspective on it. It’s definitely a very good skill to have throughout life.”

Kathie Wang







Kathie Wang (Neurobiology major) said, “I think public speaking is a really important skill to pick up when you’re young, especially because once you get to college you sort of get thrown into a bunch of presentations and meetings. I feel like the younger you are and the more you know how to present yourself that can really benefit everyone. I never got this chance when I was in high school.”

Allan Grove








Allan Grove (Comparative History of Ideas major) said, “I really wanted to come because I enjoy helping people speak. Speech is such a useful skill to have and I really just love helping people. High school students are really fun (even though sometimes they disengage), so I just thought it would be a really fun opportunity to help out.”

Stephanie Gero








Stephanie Gero (Communication major) said, “I wanted to come because I like helping people as well and I think it’s important to learn public speaking. Not a lot of high schools have public speaking classes or help. Just a little bit of knowledge will help them in any class they take and it will help them excel in college.”