Seven is a lucky number for Claire Rapp.
The El Dorado High School senior is ranked seventh in the nation among high school students in giving impromptu speeches. Over the summer, Rapp competed at the National Forensic League 2012 Championships held in Indianapolis, Ind. She advanced to the semifinals that earned her the top ranking.
Rapp was one of 546 competitors participating in impromptu speeches, said June Read, El Dorado High School’s speech and debate coach.
“We are so proud of her,” Read said.”In my 19 years (as the speech coach) that’s as far as anyone has advanced.”
An impromptu speech is when speech team members are given 30 minutes to prepare for a seven-minute speech, selecting one of three topics and no use of notes. But at the championships, students were given two minutes to prepare for a five-minute speech without the use of researching online or even a student’s iPhone.
At the championships, Rapp said she was given a piece of paper in each round with three topics to choose for her impromptu speeches.
“You just go,” Rapp said. “It is only what you know. It’s only in what’s in your head. If you can’t remember the name of an author, then you just go without.”
One of her topics at the championships was one almost every teenager knows — text acronyms.
“I got BFF (Best Friends Forever), BRB (Be Right Back) and LOL (Laugh Out Loud),” Rapp said. “I got BFF and talked about the nature of best friends and the development throughout time.”
Two more topics she spoke was on Atticus Finch, a fictional character from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” and literature.
To attend nationals was absolutely “incredible” Rapp said.
“It was only through lots of hours of hard work,” she said.
In order to advance to the league’s championships, Rapp had to compete in league meets from the previous school year to accumulate points to compete in those speech contests. But here’s the catch — per the league’s rule, Rapp can only compete for the national contest if she didn’t win any state sanctioned speech contests in impromptu speeches.
Rapp, 17, joined the school’s speech and debate team her sophomore year.
“I was absolutely terrified,” said Rapp when she first joined the team. “I was terrible at public speaking. It was intimidating to say the least, but I stuck with it.”
Rapp wanted to add an extra-curricular activity to her educational resume in hopes of attending a four-year college after she graduates from El Dorado High next spring. Playing on any of the school’s athletic teams was not on her agenda.
“I’m terribly clumsy at sports (so) that I needed an extra curricular that didn’t involve a curica object,” joked Rapp.
Read added, “She has to go through a national qualifier. She was gang busters from the beginning. She’s articulate. She cares about her studies. She wants to succeed. She has that drive that I frequently see in kids, but she is way up there.”
Read has nominated Rapp for several scholarships based on her speech ability.
“She’s determined to take first place next year,” said Read, “and I think she will.”
Rapp carries a 4.0 grade point average and is taking college preparatory classes that would allow her to enter into a four-year college when she graduates from El Dorado High next spring.
“I’m ambitious and would like to think that I can get into a college like Yale,” Rapp said. “But realistic, I understand that it’s highly unlikely. Berkeley is really appealing to me; I like the area. Berkeley would be really neat. But nothing beats an Ivy League.”
Rapp said she plans to double major in political science and environmental studies when she goes to a four-year college by this time next year.
Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter.