Speech Under the Direction of Alumni


Molly Martin

Barton and Marner wearing their masks, prepared to lead the younger generation of Kennedy Speech into victory.

Kennedy speech is starting the 2020-2021 season with new directors, individual contests and masks for all.

Kennedy graduates and speech alumni Grant Barton and Caleb Marner are ready for their second season as co-heads of the speech department. Even as they face new rules and regulations due to the pandemic, they’re looking forward to having the kids back together. 

Due to the derecho, all Kennedy activities had to find an alternative space for rehearsals and practices while renovations were complete. The speech department found a temporary home at Harding Middle School and returned to Kennedy at the beginning of January.

The speech department is a melting pot where everyone is welcome and all members work together on the same team. Because of this, transitioning from longtime head coach Melissa Marzen to Barton and Marner was more like adding two players to the team. 

“[Everyone is] collaborating and working together,” Barton said. “[It] doesn’t feel like I’m in charge, it’s more of a team atmosphere.”

Marzen turned the position over to Marner and Barton because she was ready to take a step back. She has no regrets and loves the idea of handing the department to former students who contributed their time and efforts into improving the team.

“Grant and Caleb were both a part of the Kennedy speech program while they were in high school. They left a legacy of hard work, dedication, and success,” Marzen said. “When people view Kennedy speech as a strong and competitive program in the state, that started in the era of Grant and Caleb.”

Video submission contests, in-person contests and privatized performances are all various ways that the community has organized speech events during the pandemic.

Both Barton and Marner are unsure if they see themselves running the speech department long-term. Collectively, their goal is to build a good environment and a strong foundation for future coaches and leaders.

“They understand the value of commitment to a team in order to succeed. They understand in order for a group to succeed, everyone has to play their part and be the best at whatever role they are given. They are a dream team,” Marzen said.