SEBRING — Public speaking has been rated in numerous studies as one of the all-time top fears of the general public. The thought of standing before a group and speaking has given many a brave individual cause to retreat.
The Highlands County 4-H Program, in conjunction with Tropicana, provided local youth a chance to demonstrate their public speaking proficiency May 20 during the Annual 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Contest.
Fallon Curren, a summer intern for Highlands County Extension Services and former Tropicana speech contestant, opened the competition with remarks and praise for the young orators. She noted all participants had overcome pervasive fear and developed a lifelong useful skill.
The first-place winner in the elementary division was Lauren Swaine, Cracker Trail Elementary School, who delivered a speech titled “The Science of Laughter.” Following Swaine in the elementary school division were: Megan Cooper, second place, from Lake Placid Elementary; Abigail Penfield, third place, from Park Elementary; and Hope Flores, honorable mention, from Lakeview Christian School.
The middle school winner, Noah Roth, representing Hill-Gustat Middle School, delivered a speech titled “Hmm…What Should I Write My Speech About?”
Following Roth in the middle school division were: Claire Phypers, second place, from Lake Placid Middle School; Keelan Bevis, third, from Lake Placid Christian School; and Shelby Stoner, honorable mention, from Sebring Middle School.
Full scholarships to this summer’s 4-H Open Enrollment Camps are provided by Tropicana. They are awarded to first place elementary and middle school division winners.
“Everyone can relate to that jittery moment when you first step in front of a crowd. For many young people, this contest is their first experience giving a speech,” said Brian Myers, interim assistant dean for 4-H youth development programs at the University of Florida’s IFAS. “Whether or not they win, writing and delivering a speech helps youth learn valuable life skills that will benefit them later in life.”
This year, Highlands County public and private schools had one fourth-grade class, 47 fifth-grade classes and 42 sixth-grade classes participating in the program, totaling more than 1,700 youth.
More 124,000 young people in grades fourth through sixth, attending 800 schools statewide, participated in the contest last year. Fifty-three out of 67 Florida counties participate annually in the event.
To learn more about Highlands County 4-H, visit http://highlands.ifas.ufl.edu/4-H/4-H_home.shtml.