The power of language, and the ability to share it in a clear and compelling way, was on full display last month in the media center of Franklin County School as 10 students, in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, vied for the top prizes in the county’s 4-H Tropicana Speech competition.

The top students at the Franklin County and the Apalachicola Bay Charter schools, winnowed from the classroom competitions, each stepped up to the podium to deliver their three-minute speeches, relying only on note cards for assistance.

The four judges - Apalachicola Times Editor David Adlerstein, Jill Rourke, librarian of the Apalachicola Margaret Key Library, and former FCHS math teacher Cathy Franklin and her husband John, both UF-IFAS master gardeners – each rated the young people on the composition of their speeches, based on their smooth, logical flow and effective use of words, as well as their presentation. That criteria assessed how well they bonded with the audience, how relaxed their delivery was, how well they articulated their words, and how measured their voices were throughout.

Becca Willis, an active member of 4-H in Franklin County and herself a former contestant, served as emcee, welcoming the group.

She was followed by an introduction by Erik Lovestrand, the UF/IFAS county extension director, who oversaw the program together with Michelle Huber, the program assistant.

Superintendent Traci Moses then offered a word of encouragement to the students, who each was introduced by Willis.

Then it was time for the young speakers to deliver, beginning with the six members of the fourth and fifth grade group. Each was smooth and polished, with some requiring a little boost to be able to see over the podium.

From the ABC School, Kingston Williams spoke on “Soccer,” while Sophia Strickland talked on the evils of “Puppy Mills” and Avery Johnson addressed the issue of “Bullying.”

From Franklin County, Alexis Webb gave a humorous talk on “Me, Myself and I,” while Estella Peralta was more serious with her words on the “Importance of Washing Your Hands,” and Bradley Page was detailed in his remarks on “Dinosaurs.”

When all the votes were tallied afterwards, Webb emerged with the top prize, a full scholarship to Camp Timpoochee, the 4H summer camp. Together with Johnson, who was runner-up, Webb will represent the county at the District III Competition on Saturday, May 5 in Liberty County.

Finishing closely behind, in third place was Peralta, with Page receiving an honorable mention.

Among the four sixth graders, Franklin County’s Jesse Whitted received an honorable mention for his speech on “Memes.” The ABC School’s Weston Taranto earned a third place for his recounting of the history and adventures of “Spiderman,” while Noelle Lindsay, also from the ABC School,. received second place for a look at the life and times of “Harriet Tubman.”

Emerging with the top prize was Avery Pharr, from ABC, who offered a measured comparison from ancient Greece of the two peoples “Athens and Sparta.” She’ll receive a full scholarship to Camp Timpoochee, the 4H summer camp, and together with Lindsey, will represent the county at the District III Competition.