SG Seniors Advance in Lions Club Speech Contest

During the annual Lions club speech contest five seniors  competed, but only two students, Dolly Ding and Joelana Despard,  made it through the first round, earning them some money, and the chance to win more.

The Lions Club Speech Contest is an annual contest currently in its 79th year. It gives students the opportunity to win scholarship money to pay for college. With the ability to provide scholarships totalling $103,500, the club grants each student with the chance of advancing further into the competition to win a grand total of $21,000.

“The whole purpose is to give students the chance to really kind of hone their abilities in speech making and also presenting speeches, especially in public speaking,” said Mr. Doporto, who is in charge of of acquiring participants for the club. “It gives them a little bit of practice. Particularly so because they’re doing their speech in front of […] strangers. It’s not people that they’re used to or they’re familiar with, like a classroom, or perhaps a class, as if you were a student officer.”

Delivering the speech in front of complete strangers wasn’t the only obstacle. Both Ding and Despard struggled with their own challenges throughout the competition. By constantly practicing with them, Doporto was able to see these challenges and work with the students to help rectify them.

“Joelena struggled with memorization. By the second time, it’s got to be memorized… For Dolly, it’s always been one of her shortcomings in terms of enunciation and pronunciation. This of course has to do with English being her second language, but, she is very humble and she’s not one to get upset or to get sensitive about some of the words I say are mispronounced. She might be stressing the wrong word in a given sentence, so just adjusting to changes is something she has to get over. That was a problem I think she solved,” said Doporto.

Both Despard and Ding won the first and second rounds, however, in the third round, Despard lost to Ding. Although she suffered a loss from her own classmate, Despard really had no expectations and simply maintained a positive mindset throughout the competition.

“During the competition, the obstacles I faced was versing against people I already knew and didn’t want them to lose, but overall, it wasn’t my choice in the end,” said Despard. “Honestly, I didn’t know what I was expecting. If something happens, something happens, if it didn’t, then it didn’t. If I won, I won. If I lost, I lost. The experience, overall, was nerve-wrecking, but good because I felt like I grew more and attained more confidence from it.”

While Despard is wrapping up her competition with a constructive attitude, Ding is still in the midst of practices in order to prepare for the fourth rounds. In the first, second, and third rounds, she was able to win money ranging between $100-$300. Ding can expect the competition to get very competitive now as she is competing for $4,500.

Ding signed up last year as well for the speech contest though lost in the round she is currently headed to. Ding remains highly confident that she will win this round to redeem for last year’s loss.

With the pressure to advance , Ding focuses on weaknesses in order to correct herself more so that she can prevent her mistakes from becoming habits.

“It’s (the speech) about liberty and justice, and what does it mean to you. I was hesitating about whether I would go for this competition because as an international student, I don’t really understand the liberty and justice in America,” said Ding. “I still decided to go because I have to fit in the culture and it’s better to know more about this.”

Not only does being an international student affect Dolly, but she also faces other common obstacles.

“First of all, writing the speech is really the most important thing because at first you would get stuck and you were really confused about what can really move the audience,” said Ding “Also, when you are delivering it, as a girl, you would be on your heels and you have to deliver it, last time, I almost fell.”

Ding has certainly taken some hits while competing, however, she still continues to keep her head up and her eyes on the prize. However, both Ding and Despard’s prizes were invaluable compared to the experience and impact they obtained.

“It helps them come out of their shell,” said Doporto. “Particularly for a student like Joelena, who’s kind of an introvert when you get to know her. To see her succeed in this, it’s kind of a revelation. If you saw her mom react to her winning the second competition, the second one that made her go to the regionals, she blew up. She just exploded with happiness because it’s a great deal. It means a great deal to parents who aren’t customary to a certain side of their child, and when they do see them, and they succeed. I’m sure it does a lot for that family dynamic.”

Overall, Ding and Despard did well, along with the other students. No matter the outcome, the message sent across by both the Lions Club and Mr. Doporto was to simply remain confident.

“They did very good. I’m very proud of Joelena. I made sure to let them know before the competition that whatever happens in this competition, feel good about it. The Lions club members also stress it too, during their parliamentary procedure, when they go through the rules and the guidelines and all that,” said Doporto. “It’s not easy to create a five to ten minute speech. It’s not easy also to communicate very unique ideas to people that have been on the earth twice as long or three times as long, and yet still give them something very brand new and novel about the topic. Additionally, they did very well in terms of memorizing it and really being comfortable in their own skin.”

Ding will advance to the fourth round on April 23rd for the $4,500 prize. If she wins, she will advance to the next round, which has a prize of $6,500. The round after is the final round with a prize of $10,000. If she continues her streak now, Ding could win a total of $21,000.

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