APM’s Viki Merrick works with Mona Madgavkar at the WCAI studios in Woods Hole, MA.

Through its series This I Believe, Atlantic Public Media gained years of experience in editing and coaching people from all walks of life in the public presentation of their personal stories. We have used those skills in crafting speeches and other presentations for non-profit organizations. Viki Merrick was the voice coach for the Transom Story Workshops and currently coaches reporters and hosts in public radio, podcasting and other media. (Marketplace, NY Times, Pushkin Podcasts, Financial Times)

Lajuan Allen

Lajuan Allen

Lajuan Allen speaking at a fundraiser for Camp Harbor View in Boston.

Here is an example from a young camp counselor-in-training, Lajuan Allen, at a major fundraiser for Camp Harbor View in Boston. We spent time with Lajuan, interviewing him, using the material to create his speech, and coaching him on its delivery. Lajuan ended up adding his own charming ad-libs, but this text will give you an idea of the result. He was the highlight of the event, receiving an extended standing ovation and the approbation of Mayor Tom Menino and the many other donors and dignitaries in attendance.

Lajuan Allen’s Speech at Camp Harbor View, Boston

Thank you, Mayor. Thank you, Jack. It’s nice to be here tonight.

So… The first thing I want to say is: I can’t wait for camp to start. I’m going to be a Leader-in-Training this year–an LIT. I wore the orange camper’s shirt the last three years. This year, I’ll wear the green shirt for LITs. Someday I’m going to wear the counselor’s shirt–the blue one. So, I’m very excited for summer. I think about it every day.

But three years ago, I didn’t feel that way. My first week at Camp Harbor View… it was terrible. I hated it. I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to be home– just relaxing by myself and playing Playstation. I kept getting sent to the office. I wasn’t going to participate in anything.

But they kept encouraging me, and I started to play baseball. I love baseball. I’m a sports guy. And I learned that in order to have fun, you have to participate. I’ll say it again: You have to participate. That might be the biggest thing I’ve learned here.

Another thing I learned is that: when you’re trying to do something hard, and you’re stuck, there’s always somebody here to encourage you. I had a tough time climbing the wall. It’s a tall wall. And I don’t like heights. At all. And I thought I couldn’t do it. But there was somebody here every step of the way, saying YOU CAN DO IT… And I did.

That was the best feeling. This camp has made me a better person. It has made me realize that sometimes you NEED people to help you and encourage you. And, this year, I’M going to be one of those people.

So… by the last day of that first year, I cried. I did. The last day is the toughest day. It gets emotional. We always watch a video of all the stuff we did all summer and people start remembering the good times. That last day is a great thing, but all three years, I started crying because, you know, I did not want to leave.

There was another girl here last year who didn’t like it, and I told her, “Listen, you’re gonna cry at the end of camp.” And like she was like “Nope. Ain’t gonna be me. Sorry.” But, at the end of camp, she was just crying her head off. The camp, I’m telling you, it hits you. It hits you.

You know for one thing, the environment here, it’s safe. You feel protected. You feel invincible here. I mean, I live in Dorchester and it’s not as safe there. It’s a violent neighborhood. I’ve lost friends and family to gunfire and different sorts of violence. I do not want to go through that anymore.

It’s worst in the summer. Most bad things tend to happen in the summer. I’m on the lookout constantly. Anything could happen. Like, there’s a lot of poor people in my neighborhood. And it’s hot and they get tired of it. And they get frustrated because they don’t want to live like this, with no money… And so they go and take it from people…. And the way to take it from people is to break into their house, shoot ‘em, and take it out of their pocket. It’s good to be out HERE in the summer, so I’m not in the middle of that.

From 8 to 6, I go right to camp—breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can stay away from trouble. I go home, shower and go right to bed. Seriously, they got breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month straight. And the food is good. It is.

Camp Harbor View has taught me that I CAN BE A LEADER. I didn’t know that before. They put me in positions where I had to be a leader. Now I’m going to be a Leader in Training. And someday, seriously, I’m going to be counselor here and get the blue shirt.

Actually, I’ve got my whole life’s goals planned out for myself: First, I graduate high school. I’m gonna do that. Then, I want to go to Northeastern for four years to study criminal justice. When I’m done with that, I want to go to Harvard Law School for three years. And then I might be a lawyer or I might work in law enforcement, I’m not sure yet.

But I feel like I owe my dues — to help protect people in neighborhoods like mine. That’s how I feel.

But first… before all that… I’m going to get that blue shirt.