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Chemeketa Community College will use the grant to enhance public speaking education with diverse community speakers.

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Chemeketa Community College received a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities which will fund a public speaking project.Chemeketa Community College announced that it recently received a $149,973 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Initiatives award, one of only a few community colleges among the 213 schools to receive the award.

The Salem school, which includes branches in Woodburn, Brooks and Yamhill County, will use the grant to fund "Lifting Voices: Public Speaking as a Bridge to the Humanities," which aims to develop a public speaking curriculum that is responsive in content, language and access to the diversity of students at the college, according to project leaders Katie Dwyer and Keith Russell.

Chemeketa officials note that public speaking is required for most associates and transfer degrees, and stress that it is a venue to develop skills utilized in all college classrooms: critical inquiry, narrative, academic research and the confidence to voice one's opinions and needs.

Over the course of three years, seven guest speakers will speak at the college and conduct workshops with students.

"This year we have seen so many examples of the power and importance of public speaking. The eloquence of community leaders at this summer's Black Lives Matter events and local high school students advocating for change further inspires my passion for public speaking as part of our civic life," said Dwyer, who is an educator in CCC's communication department. "By hearing the voices of our diverse community, we encourage our students to raise their voices and to see their diversity reflected in leaders incorporating public speaking skills into their work."

The speaker series begins spring term, 2021, and will be open to the public. It will strive to celebrate Oregon's diverse history and culture and will include local speakers, including activists, scholars and politicians voicing the perspectives of a Latinx farmworkers and advocates, a Native American educator, black community organizers, an Asian and Pacific Islander advocate for public health issues and a Japanese-American scholar.

The project will develop a Spanish/English curriculum for the public speaking course so bilingual students can learn in two languages.

"Many of our students go on to teach in schools with bilingual students, and honing public speaking skills in two languages better prepares them to be teachers and leaders," said Russell, CCC's dean of liberal arts.

Russell noted that the project will also serve students transitioning from general education development and English for speakers of other languages, offering embedded academic language skill support in the communications public speaking course. It is designed to help these new college students raise their voices with clarity and confidence.

"This project embodies our commitment to increase access, academic quality and community collaboration toward the success of our students. We are very excited to partner with the community speakers to better serve the needs of all our students," CCC President Jessica Howard said.

About NEH

National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

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