Fresno State welcomed students from an estimated 200 elementary schools that participated in the 59th Peach Blossom Festival, hosted by the department of communications.
Students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade recited poetry by famous poets, such as Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, as well as original pieces for university volunteer judges.
Schools could enter individual students, duos, trios or big groups to read. Each poem was completed with hand motions and tons of giggles and smiles. Judges provided students with positive feedback to help them grow.
“We really want kids to be inspired [to speak in front of others] – to be confident in themselves and learn to do that early on so later on when they’re in college or interviewing for a job, it’s not so hard for them,” said Janel Ensz, who studies speech pathology.
Ensz was a member of one of 10 teams under the direction of professor Marcie Lierly to organize the event.
Having participated in an event similar to Peach Blossom when she was younger, Ensz stressed the importance of young students becoming comfortable with public speaking and doing so in a fun and exciting way.
“I think it’s a great way for kids to get confident being in front of people, because some kids are just naturally confident, but some kids you have to push them out of their comfort zone a bit more,” Ensz said.
Between presentations, kids had lunch and played in the grass area of the Maple Mall and near the Rose Garden, laughing and cheering when visited by Victor E. Bulldog III and TimeOut.
An autograph station was set up outside the Speech Arts Building for the younger students to meet Fresno State athletic stars. Each youngster was given an autograph book. Some even went up to passing students for their signature.
“[For] a lot of the kids, this is their first time on a university campus,” said Valorie Rothgarn, a communications major. “So [the festival] exposes them to university, so the positive reinforcement of telling them that they’re good, telling them they’re capable can make them feel more [willing] to do college later on.”
For Jill Branco, a fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in Tulare, the festival provided her students with a positive experience to learn how to speak publicly as well as to encourage their peers.
“There was a student – it wasn’t our school – with a boy who was autistic and he didn’t want to go,” Branco said. “We all encouraged him. All the kids were clapping to encourage him. It was a really neat trip.”
First-grader Victoria Reyna, from Brletic Elementary School in Parlier, sat with her mother Criselda Reyna waiting for the school bus following the event. Her school performed “Stomach Ache Supreme” by Geraldine Nicholas.
“It went a little well. [My favorite part] was when we got to do stomach pain and when we get to do the can of tuna fish,” she said.
Victoria performed the poem with her friends, who practiced “for 20 days, I think,” she said. Victoria wants to be a police officer when she grows up.