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Lions contest helps students speak effectively

First place winner in the intermediate category, Ethan Williams, spoke about ‘screen’ time.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Speeches on perseverance and confidence and the ‘digital drug’ of excessive screen time won the judges’ favour at the Wellington District Lions’ Effective Speaking Contest, Saturday.

The Town Hall filled with proud family members for the event which saw 13 students demonstrate skill, ability and fortitude in public speaking before their audience and panel of judges.

They heard a broad, entertaining mix of topics ranging from nicknames and socks, to the truth about lying and the impact of heart disease.

Organized by the Lions, and led by member Janet Marissen, the contest was open to all students in Prince Edward County and beyond in Grades four to 12. The contest’s intention, she said, is to provide an opportunity for competitive public speaking and to stimulate self-expression and independent thinking among students.

“It is a Lions Club international project and it is done right around the world,” she said.

Ten contestants from Grades 4 to 6 spoke for three to five minutes each on a topic of their choice. Speeches from the group of six girls and four boys ranged from lighthearted to serious to heartwarming, informative and funny. Topics from this junior division included nicknames and finding confidence to the perils of phones. Other entries included the earth, heart disease, plastic-filled oceans, horses, socks, lying and colour blindness.

First place junior winner Austin Williams spoke about perseverance on the swim team.

Junior winner Austin Williams told a delightful story of a boy’s lesson in perseverance and endurance to do well on a swim team. He spoke of how the boy’s confidence grew by sheer hard work with something he enjoyed and had become passionate about.

“That little boy, you may have guessed, is me. I train harder – about 11 hours a week – to become a better swimmer and I’ve learned that being determined, working hard and listening to my coaches will make me a better swimmer.”

Austin ended his speech by quoting inspiring Canadian Terry Fox: “‘I just wish people would realize anything is possible, if you try; dreams are made possible, if you try’.”

Another junior spoke about the origin of nicknames, including examples of some famous people, and how some nicknames are just abbreviated forms of proper names.

“They are often a reflection of how you act or they come from a fun time or experience with your friends,” he said.

“What does lying mean to you?” began junior contestant number five who picked lying as the topic for her speech. “Lying can turn into a bad habit and if it continues, it can destroy your social life,” she said. “Lying is bad unless you have a good reason for it. In other words, lying isn’t always wrong,” she said.

The sixth speaker in the junior section told a personal story of how heart disease affected his family.

“My baby sister was born with congenital heart disease on Feb. 2, 2018,” he said, explaining that one in 100 babies are born with it. He spoke to how she had open-heart surgery on Aug. 2 last year.

“It surprised me to learn that they actually broke her chest bone in order to work on her heart,” he said, noting another interesting fact was they actually stopped her heart using a bypass machine.

Plastic in waterways and oceans was the topic of choice Tylar Strauss, who placed second for her speech which noted 14 billion pounds of plastic is currently floating in the water around the world.

“Plastic takes up to 1,000 years to decompose,” she said, “and so we have to take matters into our own hands.”

Colour blindness was on the mind of third-place winner Alex Pickle.

“It doesn’t mean people are colour blind as you only see black and white,” he said. “People still see colour, but just a lot differently to the average person.” One in 12 men has colour blindness (which is now referred to as colour deficiency), but only one in 200 women have it, he said. “The most common symptom is the red-green symptom, followed by the blue-yellow and then total colour blindness.”

The junior section’s final speaker pulled up her socks speaking about their history, issues with feet and fungus and the trouble arising from wearing dirty socks—as well as the problem of holes.

“They are a profoundly and important part of our daily lives,” she said, noting that the sock police once existed in history and that Albert Einstein gave up wearing socks because they annoyed him.

The second round featured three contestants in the intermediate division – Grades 7 to 9. Two girls and one boy each spoke for five to seven minutes on a subject of their choice, which included excessive screen time, Michelle Obama and self esteem.

“Hold the presses!” said Ethan Williams, winner of the intermediate section, as he opened an animated and entertaining performance on the scientific research of excessive screen time, citing it as a digital drug.

“So why are researchers claiming that electronics make us kids moody? he asked. “Well, there many reasons, but being a kid, I understood only three of them: dopamine levels, fight-or-flight response and lack of sleep.”

“Kids left alone on their electronics rarely complain and are very pleasant to be around,” he said in jest. “You hardly know that we are there, and we hardly know that you are there; it’s a win-win situation!”

Contest judges John Whyte, Suzanne Moulton and Harry Marissen.

The judges scored on subjects, language, interest and organization of material. Sixty per cent of the mark was allotted to delivery with points given for fluency, change of volume and pitch, gestures, posture, eye contact and clearness of speech, with the most points going to the general effect on the audience. Points were deducted for pauses longer than 10 seconds and being over or under the allotted time limit.

The three intermediate students moved on to present an impromptu talk. They were sequestered in a separate room and given just 15 minutes to prepare notes for a two to three minute presentation. Janet Marissen was on hand to help guide them and offer advice.

“I was telling the young people getting ready for the impromptu that if you were to go out and talk among the adults here and ask them what the most scary thing they could be asked to do, it would be to say a speech,” said Marissen.

The contestants spoke about a best friend, cats and a favourite holiday.

All the contest participants received a certificate and small gift.

Junior division winners: (front row): first place winner Austin Williams, (swim team) third place winner Alex Pickle (colour blindness) and second place winner Tylar Strauss, (plastics in the oceans). At back, judges Harry Marissen, Suzanne Moulton and John Whyte.

Winners in the junior category were: first place Austin Williams (swim team), second place Tylar Strauss (plastic in the oceans) and third place Alex Pickle (colour blindness).

Intermediate division winners: (front row): first place winner Ethan Williams, (screen time) third place winner Kathleen Jones (Michelle Obama) and second place winner Payton Blakely-Haennel (self esteem), with judges Harry Marissen, Suzanne Moulton and John Whyte.

Intermediate category winners were Ethan Williams, (screen time) in first place; Payton Blakely-Haennel (self esteem) in second and Kathleen Jones, (Michelle Obama) third.

Contest judges were Wellington Lions past president Harry Marissen, Suzanne Moulton and president John Whyte.

“We had our winners in the junior and the intermediate categories, but everybody who took part in this competition is a winner,” said Whyte. “Why, because you made the effort to learn your topics, you made the effort to come here (mum, dads, grandparents, thank you for bringing them here). Thank you all of you to your commitment to this.

“Every single one of you is a winner and it always amazes me when I see and listen to you folks how good you are at this. To see you students at your age getting up and being so confident, it’s awesome. Congratulations!”

Pubic speaking, said Marissen is a skill being lost as few schools are participating as they once did. Most of the Lions’ contest entrants were from CML Snider in Wellington.

The six winners will be invited to attend the Lions District Finals March 23 in Peterborough.

“They will compete with other clubs like this from Belleville to Courtice, from here to Bancroft,” said Marissen. “There will be lots of young people and you’ll hear some excellent speeches from right across our Lions district.”

First place winners in each category at the finals will be invited to attend the Multiple Lions District Finals to be held in St. Catherines in early May.

Whyte added youth is one of the focuses of Lions Clubs around the world.

“I know Janet thanked parents, grandparents and of course the amazing speakers for being here, I want to take the opportunity of thanking Janet for organizing this. It’s the third year she has done it and it gets better every year, and you know what they say – that practice makes perfect. It’s true.”


Filed Under: Featured ArticlesHastings & Prince Edward District School Board

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  1. AK says:

    Congrats to all the winners. I would be curious to know if the Lions encourage equity by inviting Deaf and non-verbal students to enter, providing translators as required. Looking at the contest details, I am led to believe this is a missed opportunity to be inclusive.

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