When Jacob Trembley was told the theme for the Nevada County schools speech contest was courage, he used at-risk youth in San Francisco’s Old Skool Cafe, who turned their lives around, as fuel for his speech and inspiration for his life.
When Jacob and his mother, Laurie, stumbled upon the restaurant in Hunter’s Point, among the roughest parts of the city by the Bay, the restaurant surpassed expectation beyond just the good food and friendly service, after Trembley found that the cafe was run exclusively by at-risk urban youth who seek to improve their life.
“We were just so inspired by what we saw and talked further to the kids and Jacob really connected with Dominic (Souse), who was the waiter we had the first night,” Trembley said.
“Jacob thought it would be great to talk about the courage Dominic had to get away from a harmful lifestyle.”
Some of the employees shared their stories and even took Jacob to the kitchen to prep meals, Trembley said.
“They’ve all got some stories and came out to listen and I feel like it was such a good mutual experience for Jacob and the people at Old Skool,” Trembley said.
“I just wanted Jacob to have the experience of learning about challenges and what it can take to walk away from really destructive situations and the power to change your life and experience diversity.”
Jacob delivered his speech to the restaurant when the family revisited, and Dominic Souse and another employee, Desiree Maldonado, drove with Teresa Goines, the creator and owner of Old Skool Cafe, to Nevada County to watch the speech competition and stay overnight with the Trembleys in Nevada City.
“I was surprised and excited that they were going to be there and see me do my speech,” he said. “They had the courage to change their path and make a new life.”
Bob Walsh, the Nevada City fourth- and fifth-grade speech coach, said he had hoped Jacob would make it to finals with his interesting story.
“He wrote this inspirational speech entirely by himself, a fifth-grader, and went through his classroom, school, semi-finals, and made it to finals,” Walsh said.
“Teresa, Dominic and Desiree are in the speech and they just think it’s cool because they didn’t realize getting their lives straight would get to some kid out here.”
Laurie Trembley appreciated the help her son received from Walsh to prepare for the contest.
“He does an amazing job coaching the students … the nuances on language and expression and how to take a good speech and turn it into an incredible speech,” Trembley said.
The uplifting feeling from the experience is mutual for Jake and the staff at Old Skool, Goines said.
“Jake feels inspired by them, and they’re feeling inspired by him,” she said.
The speech contest began 29 years ago as a way to help students overcome their fear of public speaking, said Bonnie Smart, who has coordinated the tournaments with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office for 13 years.
“Public speaking is such an important skill to have for all of us and I know for my job, I really appreciate having some sort of comfort being up in front of people and I didn’t have that when I was a student,” Smart said.
“I had to learn that as an adult and it was a lot more difficult and I think these kids are learning that skill early and it’s something they can have for the rest of their lives.”
Smart has seen the growth in repeat contest entries, some who enter the competition in fourth grade through eighth grade.
“It’s wonderful to see these kids gaining confidence in their ability to speak in front of people,” Smart said.
“You can tell it’s not a normal, comfortable thing at that age, and you see the maturity and self-confidence grow.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.