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Early morning on Monday, Nov. 18, the media center at Jefferson Somerset was filled with teachers, school leadership staff, Jefferson County Extension Office and 4-H agents as well as 13 students who were preparing to stand before their audience and provide a pre-written speech.
The annual Jefferson Somerset Tropicana Speech Contest, hosted by the local 4-H agency, was open to students within the fourth and fifth grade, and several elementary students turned out to try and win the honor of being recognized as their school's public speaking champion.
With 4-H Teen Council President Jada Mosley serving as the contest's Master of Ceremonies, the competition began.
Fourth grader Isaiah Tolar was the first to speak, and he provided a narrative of a recent and unexpected trip his family had made to visit their relatives in Michigan. Tolar discussed the fun he had, as well as the experiences and friendships he made during that trip.
Fifth grader Kymani Graham spoke about renowned poet and writer, Maya Angelou and the impact that Angelou had on Graham's life. “She has inspired many people, including me,” said Graham, after reciting a brief excerpt of one of Angelou's poems.
Fourth grader Que'Jes Grayer spoke about Thomas Edison, providing a historical and biographical lesson on one of America's most famous inventors. In his speech, Grayer discussed Edison's childhood as well as his various accomplishments.
Fifth grader Carlasia Pittman provided a speech focused on the need to give and receive respect. During Pittman's speech, she described respect, as well as why it is an important attribute to obtain in order to go further in life.
Fourth grader Leonardo Rivera gave an in-depth biographic on a baseball player for the Pittsburg Pirates, Roberto Clemente. Rivera, an aspiring athlete himself, spoke on Clemente's life in Puerto Rico, as well as his successful career as the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined within the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Fourth grader and animal-lover Abigail Kuhl drew from real-life experience and researched facts as she spoke on her favorite animal – dogs. Kuhl, who has several dogs of her own, provided several interesting facts about man's best friend.
Fifth grader LayLonnie Johnson drew from the inspiration she had received from those around her in her speech about great leaders. Johnson spoke about the leadership staff at Jefferson Somerset, especially Principals Cory and Courtney Oliver, as well as Administrator Nicky Seaton. Johnson's ode to them reminded her audience of the qualities a leader must have. “I chose this topic because the principals of this school don't get noticed a lot,” added Johnson.
Fourth grader Keion Enzor tackled world hunger and the importance of supporting organizations that help end hunger in local communities.
Fourth grader Braxton Perry spoke on his admiration for dogs in his speech. Perry discussed the ways dogs help humankind and informed his audience on the different jobs dogs can hold.
Fifth grader and aspiring tennis player Shatorria Bouie spoke on her favorite athlete, Serena Williams, during her speech. Bouie's biographic speech mentioned Williams' status as a nationally-recognized athlete as well as the various awards and honors that Williams has received.
Animal subjects were quite popular, as fourth grader Brianan Ingram dove into a speech on her favorite animal – the cat. During her speech, Ingram spoke on the best practices to care for a house cat, including their dietary needs, the home environment a cat needs and the love an owner must provide to a pet cat.
Fifth grader Azaria Morris provided a heartfelt speech on a loved one she had lost, providing an ode to her brother while honoring his life at the same time. Morris' powerful speech introduced her audience to her brother before she declared that his memory would live on within her.
The contest's final speaker, fourth grader Jelayah Howard, approached the tough subject of bullying with strength during her speech. Howard encouraged her audience to “accept others for who they are,” rather than stoop to bullying and harassing one another.
After each student had spoken, the judges' notes were calculated. Meanwhile, 4-H Director John Lilly spoke to the students who were eagerly awaiting the results of the contest.
“In my book, you are all winners,” said Lilly.
In a wonderful show of sportsmanship, the students also individually congratulated one another while waiting for the contest results, applauding each of their schoolmates for the wonderful speeches that had been prepared.
After the two judges (Jacqueline Seabrooks and Chuck Collins) finally returned from their discussions, 4-H Director John Lilly proudly announced that this year's first place winner of Jefferson Somerset's competition was LayLonnie Johnson. The second place title went to Azaria Morris, with Kymani Graham receiving the third place award.
“Somerset is proud of all of you and your school's administration is proud of you,” said Principal Cory Oliver, while handing out the ribbons and awards that each student had won. “It took a lot of work to put together your speeches.”
Jefferson Somerset's winners will move onto the next chapter of the competition, which will be a county-wide contest on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The competition will determine which student from either Jefferson Somerset or Aucilla Christian Academy (ACA) will go on to compete at the district-level contest.
The county Tropicana Speech Contest will be hosted at the ACA auditorium at 6:30 p.m.