It was a complete sweep for the eighth grade females from Gardner Newman Middle School at Monday’s LaGrange Optimist Club oratorical contest, female division, based on the theme of “Why My Voice is Important.”
The competition was very close, but at the end it was Gardner Newman’s females who took home the first, second and third place medallions. Bri’ya Todd placed first, Te’a Winston placed second and McLain Skinner placed third.
The other schools that also had students compete in the contest were Callaway High School, Callaway Middle School and Long Cane Middle School. All of the schools had held their own recruitment and/or preliminary contests to select their strongest contenders. In total there were 10 students who competed at the William J. Greggs Recreation Center.
Optimist Club member Rodney Harmon, the chairman of the oratorical event, had to improvise when the electricity at the center went out during Monday’s storm.
“We will still run today’s contest but, once we start, if the first contestants have to give their presentation without the lights or the microphone, everyone will also give their presentations that way,” Harmon said.
With a load crack, the power did come back on during the fifth contest’s presentation. The young lady hardly flinched and after the lights and the microphone were turned back off she was allowed to start her presentation over.
Janice Ussery, a language arts teacher at Gardner Newman Middle School, was there to see the students present their essays.
“This program has grown so much that it is now necessary to have the girls compete on one day and the boys on another,” Ussery said. “Our students really work hard to perfect their presentations.”
Troup County School System Director of Public Relations Tina Duckett was pleased to see all of the girls’ enthusiasm and appreciated that the Optimist Club offers such a contest for the students.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and we appreciate the Optimist Club for making this possible,” Duckett said. ” This is truly an authentic learning experience for our students.”
Although all of the contestants were given the exact same theme, they all interpreted it differently and had put their own unique brand on it. During Todd’s presentation, she spoke about how she can use her voice to join with others to work for a common goal.
“My definition of unity is coming together as one to reach a common goal. Alone we are a simple tree branch, but together we are the entire Amazon forest,” Todd said.
Todd participated in the contest last year also, but didn’t place.
“I just had to come back and try harder. I worked on putting more expression and hand gestures into my presentation and becoming more theatrical,” Todd said.
All of the students delivered strong performances but Todd’s dramatic and engaging presentation won the first place medallion.After winning the local club competition, Todd will now be going on to compete against females from other school systems at the Zone level.
Judging Monday’s event were LaGrange City Council member Norma Tucker, former LaGrange City Council member George Moore and LaGrange Optimist Club President Scott Cook.
The competition for male students will be held at the William J. Griggs Recreation Center at 11:30 a.m. on March 4th. CB&T is the sponsor of these events.
The Optimist Club of LaGrange is a service organization that is a member of Optimist International. The club works to support and encourage youth, which is characterized by their motto, “Bringing Out the Best in Kids.” To learn more about the Optimist Club of LaGrange, please call Scott Cook at (770) 655-9653, or visit the club’s international website at www.optimist.org.