Globe-trotting teen on a whirlwind gig

Ali Cohen

By Joyce Coronel

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For many high school students, the end of the spring semester and the advent of the warmer summer months are a time to relax from the rigors of academia, maybe by sleeping in or just sitting beside the pool.

Let’s just say that Ali Cohen has an entirely different agenda on tap.

The 17-year old is splitting her time between London, Iceland, Washington, D.C. and Fort Lauderdale in a series of competitions and educational programs that might leave even the most seasoned traveler breathless.

Jill, Ali’s mother, said she’s proud of her daughter and knows that Ali’s summer break will be packed with excitement. “I wish I could take credit for her accomplishments, but it’s all her doing,” Jill quipped.  “She finds this stuff and applies on her own.”

Wrangler spoke with the pair just before Ali headed off to London, her first stop, for a speech competition. She was selected from students across the U.S. to represent her country at the English Speaking Union International Speech Contest.

While there, she’ll meet with Her Royal Highness Princess Anne in a private reception for competitors.

The competition brings the best young speakers from all over the world to London for a week of cultural exchange and public speaking contests. Established in 1980, it now reaches over 600,000 young people in more than 50 countries across the globe, showcasing the highest standard of public speaking, while giving delegates an opportunity to meet and engage with other young people of different backgrounds and nationalities.

For most people, public speaking is a cringe-worthy affair, but Ali said that even though she might get the jitters, she doesn’t fear taking the stage. She’s been involved with speech and debate since sixth grade.

“I’ve always been a very outgoing person so I’ve never been wary of public speaking, but that’s not to say that I don’t get nervous when I speak,” Ali said.

“I kind of get this rush and this feeling that people are expecting and looking for me to share something special, a really important message.”

Ali said she likes to speak on civic engagement as well as topics related to public or international policy and feminism as it relates to other countries.

Three rounds of completion in London will include a prepared speech, an impromptu address and a final round.

In mid-June, Ali will travel to Fort Lauderdale for a national speech competition. She’s an Arizona state champion in congressional debate and will compete in Florida among her peers from around the country.

During the first part of July, Ali will attend the United Nation’s Girl Up leadership summit in Washington, D.C. She was selected to be a teen adviser for the U.N. program that addresses the many obstacles and injustices experienced by girls around the globe. From violence to discrimination and lack of educational opportunities, the U.N. program aims to educate and have an impact on the lives of young women.

Ali said she started a club at her school two years ago to help address these concerns. Girl Up Chandler is the face of the campaign on a local level, raising funds and awareness.

“It’s something I’m passionate about,” Ali said. “I’ve been personally inspired by it and it’s also become motivational for me to write speeches about it.”

She’s excited about the summit because she’s heard from prior delegates that it’s a life-changing experience.

“I know there will be amazing speakers and I’ll get to help plan it and run it so I’m really excited for that.”

The Tempe teen will round out her whirlwind summer with a 15-day quest in Iceland where she’ll climb a glacier and film a short documentary on climate change. Ali won the trip through National Geographic Mundo. The program takes teenagers to different countries and then teaches them different skills as well as facets of anthropology and geography.

Joyce Coronel
Joyce Coronel
Joyce Coronel has been interviewing and writing stories since she was 12, and she’s got the scrapbooks to prove it. The mother of five grown sons and native of Arizona is passionate about local news and has been involved in media since 2002, coming aboard at Wrangler News in 2015. Joyce believes strongly that newspapers are a lifeline to an informed public and a means by which neighbors can build a sense of community—vitally important in today’s complex world.

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