Students from Gardner Newman Middle School placed first and second in Monday’s LaGrange Optimist Club oratorical contest, male division, entitled, “Why My Voice is Important.”
Gardner Newman’s eighth graders Benjamin Doig, placed first with Jairo Flores taking the second place. Thomas Spader, from Callaway High School, placed third.
The other schools that also had students compete in the contest were Troup 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 11 students who competed at the William J. Greggs Recreation Center.
Parents, grandparents, teachers, school councilors, Troup County School System representatives and Optimist Club members made up the audience for the day’s event. Phillip and Kim Sledge were in attendance to give support to their son, Landon, an eighth grader at Callaway Middle School.
“This is a great experience for him (Landon) to be able to speak in front of people. He wants to be a youth pastor so this is good practise for him,” Kim Sledge said. “We haven’t heard his speech yet so we are excited to know, at this age, why he feels his voice is important.”
Before the students presented their essays, everyone enjoyed a complete buffet luncheon that was prepared by Optimist Club member Dorothy Cameron.
The eleven students, identified to the judges and audience by only the letter that they had just randomly drawn, then, starting with Letter A, approached the podium and presented their variation on the given theme. The audience, having waited until the last student had finished, gave all of the young men a round of applause.
Optimist Club member Rodney Harmon, the chairman of the oratorical event, thought all of the students had to be commended for how well they did.
“All of the young men did a fine job in presenting their essays. The scores for the top three were very close,” Harmon said.
Before the top three medallions were given out, Harmon, along with the club’s only living charter member, Hawley Smith, gave all of the students certificates of participation. Harmon then directed his comments to the students.
“There are no winners, no losers here today, just people who have placed,” Harmon said. “It all is a positive experience, one in which you can learn from.”
Although all of the students started out with the exact same theme. Some of the students used examples of how famous political and civil right leaders used their voices to make important changes. Other students referred to song writers and specific singers to illustrate the results of the importance of their voices. Doig took an historical approach in the writing of his entry.
“I like history in itself. There is just so many powerful people in history who have used their voice, so I thought, why not me? My voice is important,” Doig said. “It just made me feel more connected to all those people in history, that my voice also mattered.”
After placing first in the local competition, Doig will compete against students from other school systems at the Optimist Club Zone level.
Judging Monday’s event were LaGrange City Council member Norma Tucker, former Troup County teacher Barry Jackson and LaGrange Optimist Club President Scott Cook. Club member Jim Fowler was the official time-keeper for the event.
Harmon ended the program by thanking everyone, especially Community Bank and Trust for their continued support of the program and for providing monetary awards to the top three contestants.
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.