International Student from GCC Wins Speech Contest

Recognition Matters @ GCC

Batavia, New York - Born in Saitama, Japan, Maki Ishikawa began learning to speak English when she was 18 years old in preparation for moving to the United States to attend Genesee Community College. 

“Learning English was really hard for me. Especially having to speak English in front of native speakers and it’s still most difficult. However, I enjoyed it and enjoy improving my English skills,” said the now 20- year-old Theatre Arts major. “When I began my English study lessons, I never imagined I’d be giving a speech in a competition in front of hundreds of people in English – and winning it!”

A Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society member, Maki was driven to participate in the NY Regional Speech Contest, which was held in Syracuse, NY in March, because she enjoys challenging herself. Maki said, “I could see myself giving a speech and I got very excited. Then, I was not convinced my speech was good enough and totally re-wrote my speech the day before the contest. I had to re-memorize the whole thing. That was another challenge.”

The PTK contest rules state only that the speech must be under four minutes and must focus on one of the Honors in Action themes the organization promotes. Maki’s speech talked about the benefits of being a Phi Theta Kappa member and persuaded new students to work hard and join the Honor Society. Her speech was met with applause. She competed against ten students in her category, most of which spoke English as their first language. But Maki’s strong and well-written speech prevailed and she earned first place qualifying her to compete for a national title in the next round of competition, the PTK Catalyst Convention in Orlando, Florida in April. 

Competition aside, traveling to Orlando was an exciting adventure for Maki as she had dreamed of seeing more of the United States - especially the warmer south – in the cold April. The speech competition category in Orlando was comprised of over 30 students who had all won their regional competitions. She was armed with a new speech focused on the non-traditional student’s benefits of being a Phi Theta Kappa member. Maki delivered her five-minute speech and secured her position among the top eight competitors.

“I was a little disappointed that I did not win,” Maki said. “But, I was more proud of myself for how far I’ve come and how well I did and how much I pushed myself to try. Studying in the USA and doing this competition has given me more opportunities and experiences than I could have imagined. I’ve always believed it is better to regret doing something than to regret not doing something.”

Maki’s extraordinary achievements have earned her a place in GCC’s new Recognition Matters series which highlights the accomplishments of the College’s faculty, staff and students. Officials at GCC have embraced this series as a way to acknowledge not only the achievement, but the high quality of the recognized individuals who demonstrate GCC’s “beyond expectations” brand.

Speaking of achievements and quality, on May 19, 2019, Maki will join over 200 GCC students as they walk the stage in the Richard C. Call Arena and graduate with their degrees. The ceremony will be live-streamed to accommodate the friends and families of our international students, such as Maki.

For more information, contact Marketing Communications Associate Director Donna Rae Sutherland at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6616, or via email:

# # #

GCC’s Recognition Matters logo is available at: