By Curt Yeomans
Forty students will take the stage at Clayton County Schools' Performing Arts Center today, putting their cultures on display in the district's 17th annual "Hear Our Voices" competition.
Some will wear costumes. Some will bring props and displays. A few will also bring native foods from the country of their cultural origin.
The competition will begin at 9 a.m., at the performing arts center, located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway, in Jonesboro. It is organized by the school district's language arts department.
"This competition is a time for the children to share their backgrounds and cultural heritages with each other," said Lisa Orr, the school system's coordinator of elementary language arts.
The "Hear Our Voices" competition is made up of 13 grade-level categories. It is also split up into two parts - a written section and a speaking section.
"The writing portion is there to encourage the children to develop their writing skills, such as punctuation and grammar use," Orr said. "Then, the cultural heritage presentation is there to improve their speaking skills."
The speaking section is scheduled for today. The judges, who include a district-level coordinator, a school principal, a school improvement specialist and a literacy coach, will judge the participants in seven areas. These areas include content, originality, organization, eye contact, speech clarity, pace, and stage presence.
"What's really great is to see is the kindergartners," said Orr. "These little 5-year-olds get up there and give speeches that many of us would be too nervous to recite."
Though today's oral presentations are the final part of the competition, attendees should not expect to learn the results of the competition at the event. Orr said it will take the judges a few days to compile the scores. The winners will be contacted through their schools.
The winners will then be brought into a television studio at the school system's central office in Jonesboro, where their oral presentations will be recorded. The recordings will then be aired on Comcast Channel 24, the school system's public access channel. The winners will also be recognized at a reception in April. During the reception, the winners will receive booklets which will include their speeches, and a certificate.
For more information about today's presentations, call the Performing Arts Center at (770) 473-2875.