"Father knows best" may be a traditional sentiment when it comes to young people deciding the paths of their futures, but Leticia Nketiah's competitive speech of the same title encourages people to avoid living just to please others.
Nketiah is a member of Jefferson City High School's speech and debate team, and she will compete at the National Speech and Debate Association's national tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, this week. She delivered the same speech she will compete with at the Jefferson City school district's Board of Education meeting last Monday.
"We keep the same piece all year long so that it becomes better throughout the year. You can change it if you go to nationals, but no one really wants to do that and memorize a whole new 10-minute speech," she said.
She will compete with an original oratory.
"We start off with an anecdote, our personal story, just to make it more original. But what we talk about are societal issues. It's broader than just ourselves," she explained.
The anecdote in her persuasive speech is about her relationship with her father when it comes to the clashing visions they've had for her career path. She's 16 years old and will be a junior in the fall.
"He pushed a lot for me to become a pharmacist, and after a while, I started thinking that that was my dream. But it turned out that it wasn't," she said.
"As the years passed, becoming a pharmacist was the only thing I could envision myself doing," she said in her oratory. "My reality had become distorted, blurred and even obscured. And sadly, I am not alone, because just like myself, we all tend to let the expectations of other people dictate our reality. Therefore, we begin to lose sight of who we truly are.
"Being indecisive allows room for co-dependency. If we cannot make decisions, we rely on others — our teachers, our peers — to make them for us," she continued, explaining this can have long-term consequences for physical and mental health and career satisfaction.
What she wants is to become a chef. "However, my dad and I do not see eye to eye yet," she said. She wants to own a professional catering business.
She hopes to attend Cornell University in New York state or Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for her undergraduate degree. After that, she'd like to go to a culinary school for her graduate degree, perhaps in Minnesota.
"I do want to travel around Europe just to get to know European food," she added. Paris is the place she's most excited about, especially the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower.
Nketiah is originally from Columbus, Ohio, but she's lived in several other places around the country and world — Arizona, Kentucky and the nation of Ghana in West Africa. Her mom, Lydia Adoma, and dad, James Nketiah, are from Ghana, and they came to the United States to become citizens before she was born.
Jefferson City has been home since August, when she and her family moved from Houston, Texas.
Houston is still the place she's most attached to because it's where she's lived for the longest amount of time — three years. She started in speech and debate there in seventh grade.
"A lot of why I started in speech and debate was because I used to be very shy and introverted," she said. "Speech and debate has given me a pathway just to express myself more than I could have doing sports or anything else. I am going to be captain of my event, which is original oratory, next year, and I'm hopefully going to teach a bunch of other people how to get to nationals."
Despite the time speech and debate takes up, she'll be on student council next year and potentially medical club and culinary club, too.
She wanted to thank her speech and debate coaches at JCHS, who she said got her to this moment — Jordan Hart and Kristi Moore.
"In the beginning of the year, I told them I wanted to go to nationals, and they made it happen, so I'm very grateful."