Jayden Gilllespie took top honors and a $500 prize Feb. 21 in the RSF Middle School Speech Contest with a speech that challenged listeners titled “Leave Your Mark.” Ten finalists competed in the finals — five 7th graders and five 8th graders. Those 10 talented speakers were first winners in their respective writing classes and then winners of the semi-finals held two weeks before the contest.
Seventh graders focused their speeches on the “This I Believe” essays which began in 1951. Radio pioneer Edward R. Murrow asked Americans from all walks of life to write essays about their most fundamental and closely held beliefs. The five finalists were Peyton Boyd, Lorenzo Patino, Ashley Perison, Victoria Sabadicci and Elle Schneider.
The eighth graders used one of the tenets of Rachel’s Challenge as the focus for their speech. Rachel lost her life in the Columbine shooting and her mission statement was “Teach every student in America that they have the power to start a chain reaction of kindness in their school and community that will create a permanent positive cultural change.” Her five tenets are: Look for the Best in Others; Dream Big — Set Goals; Choose Positive Influences; Small Acts of Kindness Reap Huge Rewards; and Start a Chain of Kindness. The five finalists were Jayden Gillespie, Lauren Flaming, Erin McBurnett, Claire Fishman and Diana Wong.
The annual speech contest has been supported by former student and contest winner Taylor Hanan, who is also one of the invited judges.