The New Jersey Orators (NJO)
is a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking skills to
children 7 to 18 years old. The organization was founded in 1985 by a
small group of African-American corporate executives who were concerned
by the lack of formal language skills of young people who visited and
interviewed for jobs in central New Jersey companies. Aware that
communications skills play a major role in achieving academic and career
success, the dedicated executive group established the first Orators
In developing the organization, the founders focused on strong
oratorical and verbal skills, as well as an appreciation of
African-American literature. Also, they sought teaching methodologies
that were fun and interactive and coaches who were trained in language,
communication, English, and/or practiced formal speech in their daily
work. As a result, the organization relies on executive and education
volunteers who are strongly committed to the program's mission.
The basic training consists of developing skills in seven oratorical
categories: declamation, extemporaneous speech, interpretation of prose,
interpretation of poetry, dramatic interpretation, original oratory and
illustrated talk/demonstration. During the year, each chapter has weekly
meetings that coincide with the school calendar. Twice a year, orators
throughout the state compete individually and a trophy is awarded to the
most accomplished chapter. The events expose the orators to a wide range
of talented peers and oratorical styles.
Since founding, the New Jersey Orators has established a record of
achievement. It has grown from one chapter with 16 members to 14
chapters statewide, and an affiliate chapter at the Ethembeni Enrichment
Center in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The growth of NJO is attributed
to three factors: excitement generated at performances and statewide
competitions, word-of-mouth by parents and youth, and referrals by
The New Jersey Orators is recognized as a Points of Light citationist
(number 51 out of 3,000 national volunteer organizations), one of the
best-run volunteer organizations in the Nation (The Wall Street Journal.
November 2000), and a recipient of the State of New Jersey Governor's
Award. The organization was Studied
by the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University and winner of the
Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Award, 2002.
In 2004, for the Brown v. Board of
Education 50th anniversary commemorative programs, orators appeared with
Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the symbolic children at the NJ Performing
Arts Center, and with Julian Bond as feature performers at the statewide
public school celebration at Rutgers University, 2004.
Annually, NJO works with over 500 youth throughout the state and
receives requests for additional chapters every year.
Beyond the awards, NJO children speak for themselves. They speak with
eloquence, knowledge of their subject matter, and comfort in who they
are. New Jersey Orators are leaders in school, church, and their