From Speeches to Screams

Speech season is right around the corner, but Michael McNurlen and Gina Bennett are already helping kids with their acting skills as the 44 Keota Speech team members come together for a spook-tacular performance at the McNurlen farm.  The Haunted Barn, sponsored by the Keota Speech team,  will be Saturday October 21, Sunday October 22 and Sunday October 29.  The address of the Haunted Barn is 32970329th Street, Wellman,

The location will be split off into age appropriate levels.  There will be the Spooky Trail for little goblins, and the Haunted Barn for those older kids who like to take a chance on being scared.  Hot chocolate and s’mores will be served at the end of each.  With all the speech students as the actors, it will give the students a chance to get into a role that they might not have experienced before.  

The Haunted Barn is just one of the things that the newly formed Keota Speech Team booster group will be doing to help back the Keota speech program.  “We hope to help with a lot of the back burner things that McNurlen and Bennett have taken on themselves.” Cindy Menke stated.  “When there are early morning practices, you can find the coaches spending their own money on donuts and more.  You can also count on the fact that they are going above and beyond to make sure that concessions are taken care of and that kids are excelling.”

Menke and several other parents started thinking about what they could do to help the speech team from behind the scenes.  Interested parties came together and the Keota High School speech boosters was developed.  “Our hope is to get all of the parents of these talented students involved.  It takes everyone to ensure success.’

McNurlen and Bennett have continued the tradition of a successful speech team, which began with their mentor Bill Hultman.  They have helped student produce numerous Division I ratings at State contest as well as 15 All State nominations in the past 5 years.  They have been working together over 15 years.  

“We stress to our students that we take things one contest/performance at a time and encourage the kids to not only learn and develop life- long skills and confidence, but also to have fun along the way.  The success with the All State nominations is the icing on the cake,” stated Bennett

The Boosters plan to start off slow and base things on trial and error but know that their main focus is to take some of the behind the scenes things off of McNurlen and Bennett so that they can do what they do best, help students be the best they can be in speech.

“Right now there is a group of about eight of us that have been meeting, which includes McNurlen and Bennett.  We have discussed  both the Haunted Barn as well as the Christmas Tree Walk/Soup Supper in December.   The Boosters hope to take on the fundraising duties to free up the coaches so that rehearsal time is not disrupted,” said Menke.

Although the Boosters group is just getting off the ground, they are hoping this will be a positive way to enhance the already successful speech program.  Anyone interested in joining the Speech Boosters or who would like to contribute is encouraged to email the group at