Erica Lemelin topped the annual district speech contest last Wednesday evening with her passionate and humourous entry entitled “The Hill.”
Ten students from eight schools delivered their speeches in the Robert Moore School gym to judges, parents, classmates, and community members.
In the speech, Lemelin, a Grade 8 student at Crossroads School in Devlin, explained the frustration students at her school have felt about a fenced-off hill on their playground.
She went over the history of the hill and the many times students had been unable to play on it because of either a lack of grass in the fall and spring, or too much slick ice in the winter months.
And now that the hill is completely fenced off, it has become, in her opinion, a useless feature on the playground, with only nine weeks of use in the past eight months of school.
Lemelin told the Times she had no idea for a topic at first–until she was riding home in the car with her parents one night.
“We passed the school and I saw the hill,” she recalled.
“I just started talking about how it is so useless, and how it is always fenced-off and no one can play on it ever,” she added.
After about three-straight minutes of talking about the hill, Lemelin said her parents turned to her and told her to use it for the speech.
“I looked back and said, ‘There is your speech topic right there,'” her dad laughed.
After that, Lemelin said the speech came together very quickly.
“I had a bunch of ideas that fell together like a puzzle and bam-bam-bam, there was my speech,” she remarked.
Besides the writing and content of her speech, Lemelin’s passionate delivery also was vital in winning the judges over.
“I did a lot of presenting [as practice],” she noted. “I would talk through it over and over again.
She added she would recite her speech so often that her best friend almost was able to repeat it back to her.
Taking second place in the contest was Maya Davis of Robert Moore School, whose speech was entitled “The ‘R’ Word.”
She spoke about the word, and recounted her experiences with a sister born three months premature and diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
“It should be a word used for scientific and serious purposes, but instead it is used as slang for stupid or dumb,” Davis explained.
“The word that should be taken seriously is instead used to tease and bully.
“That is why I chose this topic for my speech,” she added. “I want more and more people to know how hurtful that word is.”
Steven Dueck, a student at Donald Young School in Emo, captured third place for his speech on “The Myth of Adolescence,” in which he sought to prove that youth are not all lazy and entitled.
“I believe we can be mature, creative, hard-working people,” he remarked.
Dueck gave examples of young people who have done great things, like starting a watch-making business or serving as a naval captain.
“The myth of adolescence is really just a myth,” he concluded.
The other seven participants included Lucas Olson (Sturgeon Creek), Jenna Bailey (J.W. Walker), Taya Hagarty (Riverview), Corbin Riches (Robert Moore), Halle Nugent (Robert Moore), Laura Dykstra (S.C.A.P.), and Aurora Hutton (FFHS-Intermediate).
After each speech, the students were asked questions to test them on their understanding of the subject and their improvisational speaking skills.
The questioners for the contest were Tanya Kroocmo (STEM co-ordinator) and Sandra Turner (Rainy River campus manager for Confederation College).
The judges were Greg Ste. Croix (FFHS teacher), Pam King (First Nation, Inuit and Métis Leader), and Kari-Lyn Beckett (Robert Moore School teacher).
The top three students received trophies presented with help from last year’s winner, Julia McManaman, with the other seven received medals for their participation.
Peg Keffer, principal of School Support Services, served as the emcee.
Superintendent of Education Casey Slack concluded the night by thanking everyone and commenting on the importance of the event.
“A heart-felt thanks from the board to the students themselves,” Slack said.
“Engaging in public speaking is an important skill that will serve you well for the rest of your life,” he told the students.