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School district prepping for speech competition

Photo by Jerry Jackson
Ajah Dortch, a Callaway Elementary School student, recited her speech at the Hear Our Voices speech competition in 2010. The contest is sponsored by the district’s Language Arts Department.

Photo by Jerry Jackson Ajah Dortch, a Callaway Elementary School student, recited her speech at the Hear Our Voices speech competition in 2010. The contest is sponsored by the district’s Language Arts Department.

It will be 21 years next month that the Clayton County Public Schools Language Arts Department has hosted its annual “Hear Our Voices” speech competition.

Ebony Thomas, coordinator of Language Arts and Media Services, said this year’s competition will be held Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 8 a.m., to noon, at the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, located at 148 Church Street.

Thomas said the speech contest is in conjunction with the district’s essay competition, and was open to all students in the district. The deadline to submit the applications for entry, she said, was Dec. 14, and there were no special requirements to enter the competition. It is open to any students interested in expressing themselves.

For the speech portion, Thomas said students were required to submit a hard copy of their speech, along with the application.

With more than 50,000 students in the school system, on average, for the past two decades, Thomas said, 20 to 30 students enter the speech contest each year. This year, she said, she has counted 19 applications. “We usually don’t have students from each school in the district to represent,” said added.

Now that the applications have been received, Thomas along with other staff members are sorting through them, to determine which students will be selected to compete this year. “Last year, we selected 7 [students],” she said. Once the selections are made, an e-mail will be sent to the students, informing them they will be contestants.

Thomas said the theme for this year’s competition will require students to stand before a panel of seven judges –– made up of educators –– and share their family’s cultural background and heritage. On the day of the contest, she said, the students must have their speeches memorized.

She said that typically, students –– especially those who have transitioned into the United States from another country –– will share stories about certain family members and their characteristics.

“We have some students who open up their speech with a quote that has been passed down from family members,” she said. “Or they will share stories about their holiday traditions.”

Thomas said students who win the contest will receive a certificate of achievement, and their work will be published in a literary magazine. In the spring, she said, the district will host a reception for the students, although an exact date has not been set.