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The NSAA State Speech Championships will be hosted Thursday (March 22) and Friday (March 23) at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Classes C-1, B and A will compete Thursday with classes D-2, D-1 and C-2 following on Friday. There is no admission charge.
Several events will be streamed live on the NSAA website, nsaahome.org/speech, and the awards ceremonies are broadcast on NET. A full schedule can be found on the NSAA website.
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Jake Jacobsen has seen just about everything during the NSAA State Speech Championships.
A snowstorm that wreaked havoc on the event. Of course, it’s Nebraska in late March.
People trapped on an out-of-order elevator inside Copeland Hall. Believe it.
A citywide tornado siren test scheduled during student performances. She worked around it.
As site director, it’s Jacobsen’s job to ensure the approximately 3,000 students, spectators, judges and workers on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus for this week’s competition enjoy themselves – no matter what pops up.
“It’s about the students,” she said. “They need to have a really good experience.”
UNK has hosted the State Speech Championships since 1999, and Jacobsen has been involved with the high school activity for roughly the same amount of time.
The senior lecturer in UNK’s communication department started as a judge for local, district, state and national speech events before taking over as site director for the state championships about five years ago.
It’s a never-ending job.
“I don’t get a spring break,” Jacobsen said. “It’s a lot of work.”
Jacobsen serves as a go-between, connecting the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) and her local team, which includes Lynelle Fritzen from the Kearney Visitors Bureau, UNK facility and event manager Mannie Reinsch and other university officials.
She brought Reinsch on board as an intern when he was still attending UNK, and they’ve collaborated on the event ever since.
“He didn’t know what he was getting into,” Jacobsen joked. “It’s great to work with him.”
Planning for the speech meet, scheduled for Thursday and Friday at UNK, begins two weeks after the previous year’s event. The meetings really ramp up around mid-December as the local team finalizes its plan to get more than 1,200 students from approximately 250 high schools on campus.
“We have to plot every room,” said Jacobsen, which requires the use of West Center, the Nebraskan Student Union and several facilities in between. The Health and Sports Center hosts the award ceremonies.
Special signs are created and the UNK smartphone app is utilized to make sure nobody gets lost on their way to an event.
“We tend to forget that our campus can be very overwhelming,” Jacobsen said. “When you’re nervous to give a speech and you’re walking across campus in your heels, do you know where Copeland is?”
Jacobsen relies on a slew of volunteers – high school students, UNK students and staff and other community members – to keep things running smoothly over the two days. Chartwells chips in by feeding them.
“It really is a community effort,” said Jacobsen.
But there’s one person leading that charge.
Deb Velder, an NSAA associate director who oversees the State Speech Championships, called Jacobsen the “quarterback” of the local team.
“She provides the lifeline in making all of the necessary arrangements on campus,” Velder said. “Her high energy and dedication to UNK and the NSAA make her a great ambassador.”
Velder also appreciates the setup at UNK.
“The UNK campus provides a template for success in hosting the NSAA State Speech Championships in Kearney,” she said. “The availability of rooms and the amenities make it a comfortable fit for everyone.”
That’s Jacobsen’s goal. She wants students, team sponsors and parents to leave UNK with smiles on their faces after experiencing the caring culture here.
After all, that impact can go a long way.
“Time and time again students have said we came to school here because we had such an amazing experience at state speech,” Jacobsen said.
Writer: Tyler Ellyson, writing specialist, UNK News, 308.865.8529, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Jake Jacobsen, state speech site director, 308.865.8407, email@example.com
NSAA Source: Deb Velder, NSAA Associate Director, 402.489.0386, firstname.lastname@example.org