Wallflower turned award-winning orator

Wallflower turned award-winning orator

Kimberly JimenezFirst-year Harper student Kimberly Jimenez spent much of her childhood receiving treatment for a severe speech impediment. She had a stutter, and it impacted all aspects of her life: her confidence, her relationships and even her desire to get involved.

As a freshman at Schaumburg High School, Kimberly felt herself withdrawing further and knew a crossroads was approaching. She could either stick with her comfort zone or boldly confront what she feared most.

That’s when she saw a sign – literally.

“I was walking down the hallway after school one day and I saw a poster for speech team tryouts,” Kimberly recalls. “I realized I really wasn’t doing anything to help myself, and I certainly wasn’t improving. So I walked in (to the tryouts) right then and there. If I had taken the time to think about it, I doubt I would have gone through with it.”

Four years later, Kimberly is a gifted orator and a top member of Harper’s speech and debate team, one of the nation’s most competitive. She excels in limited preparation events such as parliamentary debate and extemporaneous speaking.

The first-generation college student recently finished as the top speaker in debate at the Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Association Tournament for two- and four-year schools’ speech teams. Overall, Harper’s speech and debate team placed second in the two-year division.

Kimberly’s transition didn’t happen overnight.

She struggled at first, and didn’t speak much at first after joining her high school team. The coach questioned why she was there. But he continued to emphasize that speech was about the process, not the end result. Things began to click. Kimberly became a more a confident communicator and developed strategies and tools to largely manage her stuttering.

“Our coach wasn’t disappointed if you didn’t win, but he did see whether you tried,” Kimberly said. “So I began to focus more on the journey and realized I had something to contribute. The competition results started to reflect that.”

Kimberly is currently taking her general education requirements and plans to transfer to DePaul University next year. She’s considering going into education because of the impact her teachers and coaches have had on her.

Harper coach Jeff Pryzbylo said he never would have known about Kimberly’s past challenges.

“If you were to meet her, you’d find this kind of soft-spoken young lady who listens well and clearly is organizing information in her brain,” he said. “Then she stands up in front of a room, and she’s an animal. She goes right at your logic. And all the while she has a smile on her face.”


In April, some members of Harper’s award-winning speech and debate team will head to Costa Mesa, Calif., for the community college national championships. But first, the team will hold Night Before Nationals to showcase their work to the community. The hour-long performance is the team’s big fundraiser, with all the proceeds supporting travel expenses.

What: Night Before Nationals

When: Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

Where: Harper College Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Algonquin Road, Palatine

Cost: $4 to $6

Contact:Harper College Box Office, 847.925.6100

Last Updated: 11/3/21