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320 Students Participate in the Annual Speech Contest at SMS

polkadotScarsdale Middle School students learned the power of oratory at the annual Speech Contest on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, with 320 seventh and eighth graders participating in the event. Their moving presentations ranged from personal stories of the loss of a parent to global issues such the Syrian refugee crisis.

The event was the culmination of weeks of activity. Throughout the month of March, every seventh and eighth grade student works on writing and/or performing a speech in their English class. Students select one of six categories of speeches: Oratorical Declamation, Personal Experience, Original Oratory, Poetic Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, and Humorous Presentation. After memorizing and performing their speeches for their English classes, students can opt to compete in the Speech Contest.

At the Speech Contest, speakers compete in two preliminary rounds with 6 to 8 students in each room, judged by 2 to 4 judges who give scores from 0-100. Students with the highest scores advance to the final round of their category, with 5 students in each final round. In the final round, judges rank the finalists from 1 to 5, one being the student whom they think should win. The winner from each category performed in an assembly for the entire Middle School on Monday, March 27, 2017. Judges were parent volunteers, previous finalists of the contest who are now in high school or college, and members of the SHS Speech and Debate team.

Approximately one third of contest participants this oratoricalyear competed in the category of Oratorical Declamation. In this category, students select speeches that have already been given. Then, they write a brief introduction and perform the speech, interpreting it in their own way. Oratorical Declamation is the newest category, having been added to the Speech Contest in 2014. This year, honorable mention went to Natalie Schonfeld (Popham 8), tied for third place were James Klein (Fountain 8) and Justine Karp (Butler 7), second place went to Natalie Dowd (Cooper 8), and first place went to Katie Berdon (Cooper 8). Berdon's winning speech was holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's "Perils of Indifference", an address he delivered at the White House in 1999. In her introduction, Berdon noted, "I was struck by the parallels between his plight from all those years ago, and the Syrian refugee crisis happening today."

graydressIn the category of Personal Experience, students write their own speeches, presenting a story about an impactful experience in his or her life. Honorable mentions went to Alan Zeng (Popham 8) and Jacob Haftel (Popham 8), tied for second place were Lucas Seiffert (Popham 8) and Eric Rodriguez (Popham 8), and the winner was Danielle Eforo (Cooper 8). In her speech, Eforo told the tragic story of the loss of her father when she was 9 years old, and how it impacted her life. Eforo's father was a volunteer firefighter, an EMT, and a social worker. Danielle said, "I decided I needed to help people, just like how my dad did. I started to stick up for my friends when they were teased, I ran bake sales for fundraising, I donated my clothes, I even signed up for a community service organization called Lion's heart."

DoyleOriginal Oratory is another category in which the speakers write their own speeches. Students select a topic they are passionate about, and write and deliver an informative, persuasive speech. In the contest, honorable mentions went to Adam Wasserman (Popham 8) and Samantha Kefer (Fountain 8), third place went to Jacob Rosewater (Cooper 8), second place went to Simran Ruta (Popham 8), and first place went to Alexa Doyle (Fountain 8). Doyle's winning speech argued that we must allow Syrian refugees to enter our country. Doyle made effective use of the ability to present images on a slideshow in this category. She showed the tragic photograph of 5 year-old Omran Daqneesh, a Syrian boy who was rescued from a building hit by an airstrike. Doyle questioned, "Many of you are here today because of America letting in your ancestors in the 1800s and 1900s. And now because of that, we are a bigger, better, and stronger nation. Our country was built off of refugees, so why are we closing our doors to the people who need us the most now?"

In the category of Poetic Interpretation, students select one long poem, a section of a novel written in verse, or several shorter poems to perform and interpret in their own way. This year, honorable mention went to Dylan Tuchman (Popham 8), tied for third place were Emily Yacoub (Butler 8) and Andrea Cardiel (Fountain 8), second place went to Karen Lee (Popham 8), and the winner was Mia de la Fuente-Akersveen (CHOICE). Fuente-Akersveen performed "Today Means Amen" by Sierra DeMulder. The poem is an uplifting spoken word poem that emphasizes the importance of every person in the world. In her introduction, Mia said, "Spoken word poetry is a rather new form of literature that had yet to be explored. It discusses so many topics and it truly is a beautiful art form."

Dramatic Interpretation is similar to Poetic Interpretation. declaimationHowever instead of performing poems, students perform an excerpt from a novel, a short story, or a play, and embody the characters from their selection. The excerpts can be serious or humourous. Honorable mentions this year went to Aanya Schoetz (Butler 8) and Kate Rosier (Cooper 8), third place went to Vivian Guo (Popham 8), second place went to Cooper Cohen (Fountain 8), and first place went to Danielle Degani (Popham 8). Degani's excerpt was from the play "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" by Neil Simon. Degani embodied the character Edna, who just found out she had been robbed. In her introduction, Degani explained, "Edna is baffled by the fact that she has been robbed, because she was only gone for five minutes."

In the category of Humorous Presentation, students write pinkshirtand perform comedic speeches about topics that everyone can laugh about. Honorable mentions went to Benjamin Koch (Butler 8) and Katherine Barlow (Butler 7), tied for second place were Zachary Loeser (Cooper 8) and Thomas Gibney (Butler 7), and the winner was Joshua Bock (Butler 8). The topic of Bock's winning speech was social media. Bock summed up posting on social media in these comedic lines: "So here's how it works. First, you find something to post that people actually care about. In the unlikely event that you get past that first stage, now you have to find a caption. This is done by locking yourself in a dark room for an hour and trying to think of clever puns, even though in the end you know you're just gonna settle for a hashtag and call it a day."

The contest was run by Fountain 8 Social Studies Teacher Will Maldarelli, and Computer Teacher Doug Rose.

This article was written by Josie Blatt, a senior at Scarsdale High School and a member of the Speech and Debate team.

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