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Photo ofMerit Omorodion

I impatiently waited for our names to be called, but with every second that passed came greater disappointment. I knew we were not going to win. Turning left and right, I saw the facial expressions of my team’s mentors, which were emotionless. I couldn’t stare at them for too long because the feeling of disappointment was making me sick to my stomach. I felt like my time, energy, and resources were all going down the drain. I felt defeated, but I was unaware that things would start to look up. 

I was fourteen and it was my freshman year of high school when I took an entrepreneurship class. It was a class that had a focus on public speaking and presentations, which were a few of my weaknesses as a student. At that time, I did not think the big business project of the class was worth it. I was skeptical, but decided to push through for the sake of my grades. 

Our team drafted our idea -- which was a handmade nightlight -- and made some slides that we would later present in the very first business pitch. The first presentation was a complete disaster. First, one of my team members did not show up, which led to a change of plan within our presentation. I had to cover his part without having practiced it, which made me more nervous than I had been before. The fact that our team was to present first also didn’t help to calm my nerves. My palms were sweaty, my stomach growled (but I knew I wasn’t hungry), and it felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. I stuttered my way through the presentation, in front of judges and high school students from other schools. Even with all the nervousness, I knew that I had to present because we worked hard on the slides and our business idea. In the end, my team did not win, but I told myself it was okay because I knew there was room for improvement.

Our next business presentation went so much better because everyone was present, we had much more confidence, and our slides were more organized. We still did not win, but we were fine with the result since we did a lot better than the first time around. I was not perfect, but I got so much better at public speaking. We went on to create more of our products. Our last selling event was a hit because I spoke to many people who were willing to buy our products, and I received a lot of great feedback for how well-spoken I was. It felt great, and that boosted my confidence. My team even ranked in the top for highest sales out of all the business teams in Boston. 

To this day, I won’t say I’m perfect, but I have gotten so much better at presentations. I recently did a presentation for my dual-enrollment college class that had me nervous at first, but then I remembered the time and effort I put into researching and preparing for the presentation, which allowed me to push through the nerves. I felt great afterwards, and I received positive feedback from the professor and other students in the class. 

I'm extremely grateful for taking entrepreneurship during my freshman year because although I’m not aspiring to become an entrepreneur, the opportunity helped me with a vital skill that will be useful for my future. I have a long journey ahead in terms of getting more comfortable with public speaking, but I’m willing to put in the work and inspire others to follow suit by trying new things as there are endless opportunities that come with it. 

© Merit Omorodion. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.