Speak Your Mind

Several area high schoolers had an opportunity to showcase their public speaking abilities at the Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys and Girls Club of Jamestown.

On Thursday, 14 high school students participated in the 2014 Optimist International Oratorical Contest for the Chautauqua County region.

The annual competition presents students with an opportunity to conduct research and construct a four-to-five minute speech presentation on a common theme. This year’s theme was “How My Passions Impact the World,” and Cynthia Conner, secretary-treasurer of the Optimist Club of Jamestown and chairperson of the competition, said she was impressed by the amount of new information she learned as a result of the students’ speeches.

“The students touched on everything from hoarding to physics to sex slavery,” Conner said. “Some of these things you just don’t realize are going on, so it was interesting to see the amount of research they put into it.”

Barbi Price, English department chairperson at Jamestown High School, said she encourages her English students to participate in the competition every year because of the experience they can receive.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for my students to come down and compete with a school that, traditionally, is very well-prepared, so it’s a wonderful learning experience for them,” Price said. “It works perfectly with both freshman English and college-level public speaking, and it’s aligned with the Common Core; so this is something that we would be doing anyway.”

The group of student participants was comprised of two Frewsburg students and 12 Jamestown students. They included: Libby Hartley and Mallory Clark, of Frewsburg; and Ryan Whisner, Emily Anderson, Lucas Lassinger, Maya Larson, Kaitlin Healy, Kelly Emerson, MacKenzie Swanson, Matthew Leon, Ben Larson, Dylan Glatz, Liz Mazzone and Emily Connor – all of Jamestown High School.

After the scoring was completed, the top three female contestants, respectively, were Emily Connor, Liz Mazzone and Mallory Clark. Respectively, the top three male contestants were Matthew Leon, Ben Larson and Dylan Glatz.

Connor, a JHS senior, said being designated as the top female contestant was a rewarding experience.

“It feels really good just because I wasn’t originally sure I wanted to do this,” she said. “I didn’t feel confident and I knew I was going to be nervous; but as I worked my speech out I ended up really liking it myself.”

Leon, a JHS freshman, said his participation in the competition provided an entirely new experience for him.

“This is basically the first time I’ve ever given a speech,” he said. “(Freshman English students) were all required to prepare a speech for this event, but we weren’t required to give it. But I decided that I wanted to do the contest just to have the experience of it.”

While there is no regional oratorical contest through Optimist International, Conner said the winning students from the local contest are welcome to compete in the statewide competition – which she said will be held in Albany during the month of May.

The judges for the event were: Connie Green, a former JPS kindergarten teacher; Debbie Perry, a Mayville resident, entrepreneur and independent businesswoman; and Larry Conner, a self-employed business owner. The timekeeper for the event was Judd Hamilton.