Inclusion advocacy was the theme of the winning presentation at Saginaw Valley State University’s 29th Sims Public Speaking Contest.
A panel of judges selected Courtney Perrou, a communication major from Pinconning, as the grand prize recipient. She bested 38 competitors at the Nov. 2 event that annually tasks SVSU students with publicly speaking on a topic of their choice.
Perrou’s presentation addressed the importance of intersectional feminism in tackling challenges faced by women in minority populations.
“At the end of my speech, I talked about how I’m privileged, and I acknowledge that,” she said. “I recognized that, with this platform, I can be an advocate for those who have been silenced.”
She received $400 as part of her grand prize.
The victory marked her second competitive recognition relating to public speaking in recent weeks. Perrou is a member of the SVSU forensics team that participates in public speaking challenges nationally. In October, she earned a second-place prize at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League tournament.
Perrou said her forensics teammates and SVSU professors supported her while she crafted and presented the speech that won the Sims Public Speaking Contest.
"They were my biggest fans there," she said. "Right up until we were speaking, they listened to me recite over and over again. They were literally cheering for me as I exited my rounds."
Perrou and her peers competed over the course of several rounds, eventually leaving six students standing at the finals stage.
Daniel Visnosky, a political science major from Sparta, earned runner-up status and a $250 prize after delivering a speech addressing transgender rights.
Simone Vaughn, a communication major from Saginaw, took third place and a $150 prize with her speech advocating for support for homeless teenagers.
Communication major Alexander Belknap, of Owosso; occupational therapy major Sarah Enge, of Saginaw; and elementary education major Jenny Wisniewski, of Brown City, each received $50 prizes as finalists.
SVSU's annual Sims Public Speaking Contest is sponsored through an endowment funded by Larry and Linda Sims, longtime supporters of the university. Larry Sims serves as president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Saginaw County. Linda Sims is SVSU’s executive director of communications and external affairs, and previously served as chair of the university’s Board of Control.