The 4-H County-Wide Tropicana Speech Competition broke new ground earlier this month, as it showcased the public speaking skills of 20 of the county’s finest students.
The speech competition, overseen by County Extension Agent Erik Lovestrand and assistant Michelle Huber, took place on Friday, Feb. 7 in the newly renovated former home of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve offices at the Mill Pond.
The event marked the first school event to be presented in the offices, which now house the offices of the University of Florida- IFAS extension program.
In addition, the county-wide event for the first time invited home schoolers to take part, and four of them did, including two who finished at the top of their game.
In the competition of the younger students, for fourth and fifth graders, homeschooler Bailey Allen took the victory with a crisp, animated and well-detailed speech on her favorite pet "Spot the Cat."
In the sixth grade competition, homeschooler Sein Whitely gave a provocative analysis of "Dog Intelligence vs. Chicken Intelligence," (concluding the latter were actually brighter), and finished as runner-up to the winner, Franklin County’s Alexis Webb, who offered a witty, insightful take on "Facts about Girls."
The competition drew a healthy audience of parents and friends, who filled the conference room that once bustled with activity but which, for the last several years, since the estuary relocated to Eastpoint, has sat unused..
Franklin County High School senior Adrian Pruett, president of both the local 4-H Club "Franklin’s Elite" and of the District 4 group, served as emcee for this competition.
The three judges this year were David Adlerstein, editor of the Apalachicola Times; Joshua Eaton, coastal training program specialist at ANERR and Pam Richardson, local historian and writer.
Lovestrand introduced the history and background of speech competition, which judged the speeches half for composition, and half for presentation.
In terms of composition, judges were asked to consider choice of information (content of speech; original material and unique subject); organization of material (logical and smooth flow; effective introduction and conclusion); and use of language (effective selection and combination of words)
In terms of presentation, judges considered audience bond (establish and maintain eye contact with members of the audience), delivery (fluent, smooth and appears relaxed); pronunciation/articulation (correct, clear, easy to understand); and voice control (appropriate volume level; change volume and speed throughout speech; uses pauses effectively.
In addition to these areas, students were asked to make their speeches longer than two minutes but less than three minutes.
Among the 11 students who took part in the fourth and fifth grade category, the ABC School’s Elena Rodriguez was runner-up, with a presentation on "A Wonderful Trip" she took to Europe.
In third place, the ABC School’s Drew Rickards gave a powerful argument on "Why We Should Get Rid of the Penny," and in fourth place, Franklin County’s Brady Fisher gave an entertaining overview of "My Chickens."
Also speaking were three students from the First Baptist Christian School, who included Lillie Gaskill on "The Cardinal" bird; Emma Fuentes on the city of "St. Augustine," and Lyla Taylor on "My Siblings." Franklin County’s Sienna Polous offered a humorous look at "Sidewalk Hurts," and Ashton Carey spoke out on "Pollution."
The ABC School’s Grady Pharr offered insight into "Greeks and Romans," while homeschooler Nathan Cabrera delivered a speech on "Martin Luther King Jr."
Among the sixth graders, Franklin County’s Shaelyn Fowler offered a clever, inquisitive speech on "What Is My Dog Thinking?" to earn third place. In fourth place was the ABC School’s Averie Johnson who offered a detailed examination of the value and experience of "Athletes."
Other sixth graders was took part were First Baptist Christian School’s Shoshannah Martin, who spoke on "Killer Whales;" the ABC School’s Alexa Pavon who spoke on "Hurricane Michael" and Mia Thomas, who offered remarks on the "Florida Seafood Festival;" and Franklin County’s Troy McKenzie who spoke on "Five Nights at Freddy’s."
Home schooler Carl Wilhite, who was not in attendance due to sickness, would have spoken on "My Favorite Book Series."
The first place winners will attend the districts on Saturday, April 25 at the UF IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office in Crawfordville.