MERCED — Some of them may be future politicians, actors or public speakers -- their communications skills were off the charts.
Those were the reactions of some of the judges for the Merced County Office of Education's annual Speech Festival. There were 140 fourth-through eighth-grade students from 15 Merced County schools participating in the event.
Students were asked what they would grow in a kitchen garden, what delicious meals they would prepare, tips on healthy living and warnings about the dangers of smoking.
Representatives from the the county office's ASSETS program, which offers after-school enrichment activities, judged the event.
Liz Rojas, an after-school program supervisor, said the student speakers were very talented. She judged seventh-graders.
"They were really great," Rojas said. "They did a better job than I would. I'm looking forward to judging again. Some memorized their speeches without prompts."
Rina Serrano is a supervisor with ASSETS, which stands for After School Student Education: Teamwork for Success. She evaluated fifth-graders' performance and was impressed with the support from parents and school principals.
"There were some actors out there," Serrano said. "It was a great opportunity for children, and the kids did great."
Juan Pena judged fourth-graders' speeches. He said the youthful speakers did a phenomenal job, putting lots of effort into delivering their speeches.
Peggy LaRocque, the MCOE business services department manager, said she was impressed with the contestants' speaking abilities and their animated deliveries. She said the students were well-prepared and their messages were well thought out.
Fourth-grade speech winners were Walter Murphy, first place, Ada Givens School, Merced; Skylar Shyrock, second place, Westside Elementary School, Los Banos; and Rebecca Sobrevilla, third place, Selma Herndon Elementary School, Livingston.
Fifth-grade winners were Lexi Avalos, first place, Elim Elementary School, Hilmar; Noemi Lara and Alexis Parra, second and third place respectively, from Westside Elementary School, Los Banos.
Sixth-grade winners were Lucca Lorenzi, first place, Our Lady of Mercy School in Merced; Tristan Shaver, second place, Ballico-Cressey; and Casandra Macalincag, third place, from OLM School in Merced.
Seventh-grade winners included a first-place tie between Gait Naim and Sydney Grossman from Ballico-Cressey School, with Faateh Mukhtar from Livingston Middle School taking second place and Maddux Ballenger from Ballico-Cressey finishing third.
Eighth-grade winners were Lindsay Silva, first place, Ballico-Cressey School; Blaine Chance, second place, Ballico-Cressey; and Harrison Hobbs, third place, from OLM School in Merced.
Valerie Le Duc, MCOE special events coordinator, said students stood in front of the audience and the panel of three judges to deliver their speeches. Some memorized them, some used props, some relied vivid gesturing and staging.
The speech festival has been going on for at least 15 years and 40 awards were presented, Le Duc said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.