On a cold day in January, a busload of students arrived at Weil Gotshal and Manges, from a Bronx neighborhood public school– for lessons in public speaking. The kids are paired with the law firm in a New York City Pencil Project. Weil Gotchal and Manges is among the dedicated sponsors of unique learning experiences for students in NYC public schools.
The students settled into the comfy conference room chairs with plenty of spunk and curiosity about the task they were about to begin–preparation for speechmaking. The goal was to pick a subject and make a speech for 10 minutes that their peers and other attendees would judge. The reviewers included a group of young Weil lawyers, Pencil personnel and Wendeen, an ardent supporter of the project. and excellence in education.
In a matter of 40 minutes, the students gained some crucial skills and tips with solid coaching from Weil’s energized associates and dedicated Pencil executives. And Wendeen, a speaker on the lecture circuit, watched listened and cheered as the youngsters got ready to fly solo –many with plenty of confidence. One after another they stood and gave their speeches.
Their subjects were diverse, they grasped current events with startling clarity, and they interacted with each other like “ladies and gentlemen.” What a joy to watch and hear.
After the presentations, Wendeen, participated in the debriefing. She noted, “Choosing a topic that lets you show your passion for the subject usually makes for the best speech.” One of these erudite middle schoolers quickly piped up, saying you can be more passionate, if you do research. Another, whispered to me, “Information is power, right!” One young lady, without any prodding , turned to thank everyone who participated in the critiques– including “our special guest, who helped me so much.” I was awed by these inner city whiz kids. Right on!