This past weekend I had the honor of going to All-State and performing my choral reading piece with the other 14 members of my team. For those of you who don’t know, Speech is a program through which students can express themselves through a variety of ways from ensemble acting, to readers theater, to musical theater, to choral reading. Unlike the typical conception, students don’t simply give a speech but rather convey a message to through the way they blend their voices and express their emotions. There are three levels of competition. At the first level (Districts) one judge views each performance, gives feedback immediately afterward. They then decide on a rating. All groups that receive a division 1 rating move on to the next level which is State. At State, 3 judges view each performance and give division ratings. Any team that gets at least 2 division 1 ratings, has the chance to make it to All-State. At the end of the day the judges secretly nominate all the teams they believe should go to All-State and rank them determining who gets to and who doesn’t get to perform at All-State. Finally, at all state the critic chooses their favorite performance in the category they are watching. When my team found out that we had made it to All-State and would get to perform, we were ecstatic. I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go to every practice this year. We addressed the very heavy and deep topic of suicide this year. Through the portrayal of 5 individual stories we attempted to address what mental afflictions look like from the other end and the impact each word has on individuals. There were many practices I left depressed. There were many practices where I didn’t feel strong enough to continue. But in the end it all proved to be worth it. My team’s main goal this year was to convey our message and make people aware. The day of All-State emotions were raging. Being in a group dominated by seniors, there were nostalgic feelings before we performed and nerves were high. But more importantly, each of us was able to relate to the message, whether it was through personal experiences, or loved ones we know. When we stepped on that huge stage, we were determined to leave a lasting impression on the audience and I believe we did. By the end every member of our team was in tears as was the rest of our audience. Our critic commended us on our courage to address such an important issue. Though we did not win the critic’s choice banner, we grew infinitely closer as a team and accomplished what we had sought out to do. For all of you who know others suffering from mental afflictions, please understand it is not their fault and that every word you say matters. Be there for your loved ones and please don’t wait till it is too late.