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Sophomore solves a puzzling speech to take home hardware

Photo via Andrew Radicker

Andrew Radicker put a spotlight on himself when he shared his story of bullying in a COM 103 speech.

Growing up, Radicker, a sophomore math and computer science double major, was bullied for being autistic and dyslexic. He struggled with a lack of self-confidence until he came home from school one day and was given a puzzle by his mom.

In the winning speech of the COM 103 Spotlight Competition, Radicker shared how solving puzzles helped him overcome his hardships with bullying. The puzzles sparked a new sense of confidence within him that allowed him to start raising his hand in class and overcome his feelings of doubt.

“[The speech] started off with my story of being the afraid kid at school, the autistic and dyslexic kid who was picked on and made fun of at school,” Radicker said. “Then toward the end, the story turned to me coming home, my mother bestowing on me this gift that’s a Rubik’s Cube and me one day solving it and getting the confidence to go to school, to raise my hand in class, to talk to people, to work. It changed my life.”

Radicker first wrote the speech last year in his COM 103 class with Dakota Horn, lecturer and basic course director for the communications department.

At the start of the year, Radicker approached his professor and explained his situation and how the class might be challenging. However, Horn quickly discovered that Radicker was one of the most engaging students that he would have that year.

“He brought a wonderful perspective to the class; he always was engaging [and] always wanted to engage other folks in the class,” Horn said. “You wish you had all kinds of students like that, because he didn’t just sit there and passively take in the material. He was like, ‘Why? Why are we doing it this way?’”

Throughout his first year, Radicker presented three speeches. One was about a hackathon, and the other two were about his struggles while growing up.  

All throughout the process, Radicker had a friend by his side: Mara Anunson, a sophomore computer information systems major.

Anunson was there when the speech was first written, and was also in attendance when Radicker performed in and won the competition. Watching her friend stand up on stage presenting his speech in front of everyone brought different emotions up for Anunson.

“The speech moved me with different feelings,” Anunson said. “The first one I felt was pride, since I saw Andrew make the speech and hearing it in its final form was brilliant.”

Not only was Anunson touched, but so were members of the audience. 

“There were a couple of people who were emotionally moved,” Horn said. “You could tell that they were either crying or near crying.”

In his communications class last year, many students were also moved by Radicker’s speech. When it came time for the students to debrief and give each other notes about their classmates’ speeches, Radicker got nothing but praise for both his delivery and the power of his speech.

The emotional responses audiences had to Radicker’s speech sparked the idea from a few professors to call him back on another date to record his speech. They wanted to do this because they believed that students across campus should hear the speech’s message.

Outside of competing in the contest, Radicker finds himself constantly busy. Apart from being the president of both the math and chess club, Radicker also tutors students in both math and computer science courses and grades for a math class. 

All of the hard work that Radicker has put into his time so far at Bradley is leading up to his future career of being a college professor and a mathematician participating in research for the field. 

Radicker is excited by the idea of sharing his speech and his life story with people around campus. He wants students just like him to know that they are not alone and someone out there understands. 

“Your disabilities are not disabilities — don’t look at them like that, they’re differences,” Radicker said. “Everybody has a means of making an impact.” 

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