SCAP student wins district speech contest

They bravely stood in front of the crowd, talking about topics as wide-ranging as the NHL strike, the Loch Ness monster, racism, shopping, and a cat named Tango, but it was an address about bats that won the night.
Simeon Firth, a student at Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program, took first place at the 2005 Rainy River District Speech Contest last Wednesday night.
Second place went to Samantha Mueller of Robert Moore School for her speech about racism, while Tirzah Keffer, also a Robert Moore student, took third for her speech entitled “My Life as a Wood Tick.”
In his speech, Firth was a stout advocate for bats, debunking the myths surrounding them, and persuading the audience they are in fact beneficial.
“At one point, I was scared of bats, too,” he said, noting he once caught one in his family garage, but his parents told him to let it go.
Bats are similar to humans in many ways, with a thumb and four fingers on each hand, knees, elbows, and feet. And despite popular opinion, bats are not blind.
“Bats can see very well, though they don’t use it to catch food,” Firth explained. Instead, they use echolocation, a built-in radar system that is too high-pitched for humans to hear, but is “as loud as a smoke detector to other bats.”
Bats are neither dangerous, nor dirty.
“They groom themselves like cats,” he said. “They also pollinate plants and control the insect population.”
Firth assured the crowd there was no reason to fear bats.
“They’re scared of you, too,” he said. “So the next time you see a bat, you leave him alone! They do more good than harm.”
In her speech, Mueller talked about racism throughout the word, that is spread through organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and the Taleban, as well as people like Adolph Hitler.
The KKK was formed after the American Civil War, she noted, and often uses fire as a means of intimidation.
More than 160 Methodist churches were burned in the U.S. between 1990 and 2000, Mueller noted, most of which can be attributed to the KKK.
Adolph Hitler was responsible for the deaths of six million people. “His main goal was to exterminate the Jews,” she said. But he was not alone in his actions.
“There were thousands of people who thought he was doing the right thing,” Mueller said.
The Taleban is guilty of discrimination against women, she continued.
“They called themselves freedom fighters. Yeah, right,” she said.
When the Taleban took over control in Afghanistan, women and girls found their rights severely restricted. They had to cover themselves in the burqua, a garment covering them from head to toe, and could not venture out in public without a husband, father, or brother by their side.
“Women with nail polish had their finger tips chopped off,” she said.
Mueller called on the audience to think about these different examples.
“Is it just me, or does this not make sense to you? Look around you. Everybody’s different,” she said.
“If racism did not exist, I think the world would be more at peace. Most wars would stop,” she added.
Third place winner Keffer gave her speech from the perspective of a wood tick, waiting in the grass to jump on its next victim.
“I eat blood for breakfast,” she said proudly.
Keffer described the best qualities in a tick victim, including having lots of hair to hide in.
“Black hair is best because you blend right in,” she noted
A tick is generally 4 mm in size, but can bloat to 2 cm after a meal.
The best way to avoid getting a tick is to wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into your socks, and light colours so if a tick does get on you it will stand out, she explained.
Other participants in this year’s District Speech Contest were Jennifer Spence and Julie Martin from J. W. Walker School, Brett Hands from Sturgeon Creek School, Natalie Sliworsky from Donald Young School, Rebecca Mills from Crossroads School, Jessica Whalen from Nestor Falls School, and Danielle Gustafson and Taylor Latimer from St. Francis School.
Judges were Katherine Williams, Margaret Sedgwick, and Ann Anderson, and the Questioners were Christine Denby and Diana King.
Maureen Ricard, the literacy coordinator for the Rainy River District School Board, noted all the contestants had already won in their respective schools.
“This evening is just a celebration of all the talent we have in our area,” she said. “They’re all winners already.”
Ricard also commended the students for their bravery in public speaking.
“Anyone who’s ever prepared a speech is aware of how nerve-wracking—and rewarding—it can be,” she noted.
“The scariest thing for most adults is to get up in front of a crowd and to speak publicly,” agreed Terry Ellwood, superintendent of education for the RRDSB.
Ellwood also noted public speaking is an important part of school curriculum.
“It helps develop our future leaders,” he noted.