Afuso Qualifies and Participates in National Speech Competition Project Soapbox


By Lindsey Scott
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(Photo courtesy of Jason Duncan) Principal Fred Murphy, Duncan and Afuso traveled to Washington D.C. where Afuso gave his speech and met other government officials.

Through his ability to craft and present an argument, Junior Travis Afuso qualified for the national Project Soapbox Challenge, a public speaking competition that brings people together and allows them to express important issues that affect themselves and their peers. Students from all over the country came together at Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. on Jan. 15 to present a two minute speech about a pressing issue that affects America’s youth.

“I think (Project Soapbox has) broadened my horizons in terms of understanding the struggles that a lot of people go through throughout the country. You know, different regions, especially cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, (face) a lot of challenges that we don’t face here in Hawaii. And to hear about the (prevalence) of those challenges in people’s lives and how they really impact who they are and what they can do, I think that was very interesting to me,” expressed Afuso.

Despite the speech being two minutes long, the preparation and memorization that went into the speech was extensive. “So, what I started off with, even at the local level when we were submitting our videos to the Make the Challenge, I wrote out the speech with the general premise of, you know, I knew what I wanted to talk about. I incorporated a few statistics, particularly regarding uninformed voting, the amount of people who don’t know certain things about the government, and then also lack of civic engagement, lack of people voting and the elections themselves,” stated Afuso. Junior Emma Lake, a student who also participated in a preliminary round of Project Soapbox, added, “Well first I chose my topic and then I did research. In the beginning I was debating on what I would focus on particularly. In the end I focused mostly on the stigma against mentally ill people because I felt that was a better sort of venue to research in. And then I researched online and through the school databases and got some evidence from there. And then I basically went through the essay writing process. I wrote a thesis, introduction and conclusion and I presented.”

The Project Soapbox Challenge prompts students to express what they feel are an important issue in a crafted argument with supporting evidence. “(You) really understand the importance of what’s called civic responsibility.  It’s really the obligation of every citizen to be a participant in government. (All) that’s really important to me and so, the fact that so many Americans don’t seem to appreciate that was something that I found to be very important,” said Afuso.

The experiences of many of the students who participated in the Project Soapbox challenge were expressed in their speeches, creating a diverse experience. “It was a really amazing experience.  A lot of that was because of the people that we were surrounded by. A lot of them had gone through some very significant challenges in their life and to see that they were able to overcome and embrace those challenges, that they’ve used them to craft the person that they are today,” explained Social Studies teacher Jason Duncan. Afuso elaborated, “(You) kind of learn a little bit about their stories, what they’re passionate about, what they’ve gone through.  But then, to hear their speeches, it was really, very impressive.”

This competition has successfully taken root in MHS, signifying a future prospect for students to participate.