Imagination sparks Merced County speech festival winners

Creativity and imagination were recognized this week for winners of the Merced County Office of Education’s Speech Festival.

The competition was held last week for 135 fourth- through eighth-grade students at 18 schools in Merced County. Awards were announced at an awards ceremony Wednesday at the county schools office in Merced.

Valerie LeDuc, MCOE special events coordinator, said a considerable amount of positive feedback was received about the students’ efforts.

“They really came through with great imagination,” LeDuc said. “We gave kids a little bit of room to use their imagination. They did a wonderful job. The whole thing was really refreshing. Creativity was reborn. The teachers told me some of the students already are making plans for next year.”

This year speeches were an open platform. Students gave speeches about any subject, using selected categories from the earlier Writing Festival. Speech selections were persuasive, tall-tale, legend, fable or a report of information.

Awards for the top three students in each grade and honorable mentions were presented in the Clark and Newbold rooms at MCOE. Students stood in front of the audience and a panel of three judges. Some had memorized their speeches, some used props and others opted for vivid gesturing and staging, LeDuc said.

First-place winners were invited to give their award-winning speeches at the awards reception.

Winning students, by grade, included:

• Fourth grade – first place, Harmony Tinley of Elim School in Hilmar; second, Devrie Barstow, Ballico-Cressey School; third, Morgan Oliveira of Elim School in Hilmar.

• Fifth grade – first place, Camille Herrera of Elim School in Hilmar; second, Zachary Pickle of Peggy Heller School in Atwater; third, Emalie Brasil of Merquin School in Hilmar.

• Sixth grade – first place, Alysia Herrera of Westside School, Los Banos; second, Alexis Parra of Westside School, Los Banos; third, Noemi Lara of Westside School in Los Banos.

• Seventh grade – first place, Lucca Lorenzi Our Lady of Mercy School; second, Andrew Pettygrove of McSwain School; third, Samantha Strobel of Los Banos Junior High.

• Eighth grade – first place, Faateh Mukhtar of Livingston Middle School; second, Jaira Mendoza of Los Banos Junior High; third, Sophia Castro of Los Banos Junior High School.