Zachary Herrera will go down in the record books as the first student from to qualify for the national speech competition.
Herrera, 18, took first place in the dramatic interpretation category at the national qualifying event last weekend, and will now move on to the national championship in June at Indianapolis, Indiana.
Being the first student from his school to gain such recognition is not an honor that Herrera takes lightly. And the South San Francisco native wants to continue winning in order to improve the public image of his home town, and school.
"I hope to represent South San Francisco as a community, and South San Francisco High School, and hopefully bring home the gold," said Herrera.
Herrera's coach, English teacher Robert Hawkins, said he believes in his star student's potential.
"He has a tremendous shot at winning the national championship. He is just as good as anyone else," said Hawkins.
And Hawkins' opinion is more than that of a biased coach paying lip service to his best public speaker. The teacher won his his own national title in public speaking as a college student while attending San Francisco State University.
Furthermore, Herrera's track record gives credence to the confidence installed in him by his coach. He has performed well in speech competitions hosted at Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley against talented opponents.
"He is having a tremendous year in public speaking competitions," said Hawkins.
But Herrera's successes do not stand alone. His team mates have also nailed down great achievements this year.
A team comprised of Herrera, Roxanne Galsim-Knight, Jamil Khoury, Cesar Gomez, Gretta Georgiyev, and Darlene Ollada recently qualified to compete in the California High School Speech Association State Championships taking place next month in San Francisco.
The team, only in its fourth year of competing, has made great strides in a short amount of time. And the word around campus is spreading almost as quickly as the team is winning. Hawkins said that the roster has recently grown from six to 22 members.
And all the time working toward the victories is volunteered. Since the speech program is an extra cirricular activity, no one on the speech team is required to participate, and all practice takes place on private time such as lunch and after school.
As a result, the program is funded solely through private contributions. As Herrera and his teammates begin traveling to compete in championship competitions, the budget is stretched thin.
To help ease the funding gap, Hawkins is hoping that members of the public will contribute money. Those interested can do so by clicking here.
But ultimately, Hawkins is hopeful his team can continue the excellence in the future.
"These hardworking students have shown all year their passion and drive for public speaking and look forward to ending the season on top," he said.
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