Optimist oratorical contest winners announced

Thursday, May 1, 2003

The final preliminary competition for the Optimist oratorical contest for the region was held recently in Jackson. The topic for this year's speech contest was "United We Stand in Optimism."

Winning the girls' regional competition was Jessica Chinnadurai from Sikeston, Mo. Norman Popp, sponsored by the Jackson Optimist Club, won the boys' contest.

Students participating were from Cape Girardeau, Festus, Mo., Jackson, Marble Hill, Mo. and Sikeston. Area Optimist Clubs had previously sponsored a local contest. Winners advanced to a zone and then on to the regional competition.

The East Missouri District of Optimist International is divided into four regions. Winners of the district competition will each receive a $1,500 scholarship.

Since its start in 1928, the Optimist International Oratorical Contest has become the longest-running program sponsored by the Optimist clubs. Nearly 2,000 clubs participate in this program each year, sponsoring public speaking contests for more than 30,000 students.

Designed for young people to gain experience in public speaking, the contest allows them to express their views on a preassigned topic while providing the opportunity to compete for a college scholarship. Contestants must be under 16 prior to Jan. 1 of the current school year.

Judges were Sonja Davis of Jackson and Betty Schuetts and Mike Hogan from Cape Girardeau. Davis and Hogan are instructors at Southeast Missouri State University; Schuetts is a retired Cape Girardeau teacher. Assisting as timekeeper was Tom Houchins, president of the Marble Hill Optimist Club and Steve Sebaugh of the Jackson Optimist Club, serving as Sargent-at-Arms.

Beverly Nelson, Lt. Governor of East Missouri District Zone 15, was chairwoman of this year's contest. "The speeches were outstanding and the final scores very close. I think this speaks well of our teachers who work with these students every day to help prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow," commented Nelson. Murry Sullivan of the Sikeston Optimist Club was master of ceremonies for the event.

Optimists from the Jackson clubs have hosted this important event for the past several years. Local Optimist clubs sponsor many activities and programs for youth in and participate in various community service projects in the Jackson and Cape Girardeau area.

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