Legion hosting regional contest here Saturday
Four high school students will be at the Hastings American Legion Post Saturday morning, showcasing their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution in hopes of advancing to the state finals of the National High School Oratorical Contest.
Each contestant will give an 8- to 10-minute prepared oration on any aspect of the U.S. Constitution, followed by a 3- to 5-minute presentation on one of four amendments. Four amendments are chosen by the American Legion each year. However, at the competition, the amendments are randomly drawn, so students must be prepared to address any of the four.
Zone 2 – one of five zones of the American Legion, Department of Michigan – includes roughly the lower third of Michigan, said Jim Atkinson of Hastings, who serves as Zone 2 chair of the Education and Scholarship Committee. The zone’s 16 counties run from Ottawa and Kent, south across the Indiana line and east to Monroe County.
The four finalists competed in one of two semi-finals in Jackson Jan. 11 or Hastings Jan. 18. They include:
Aaron Siebelink, a senior homeschooler from Wyoming. He won the state championship as a sophomore.
Francesca Rahe, a junior at Hillsdale Academy. She defeated Siebelink in the Zone 2 contest last year and was the second runner-up in Michigan.
Anna Grejtak, a senior from Monroe Catholic Central. This is her first year in the competition, and she took second at the Jackson semi-finals.
Luke Manring, a homeschooled senior from Richland. He qualified at the Hastings semi-finals.
The oratorical program was begun in 1935 when familiarity with the Constitution was negligible, Atkinson said.
“We hear a lot about students not being proficient, and this gives the public an opportunity to see students who are proficient and knowledgeable of the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s a great contest.”
As Zone 2 chair, he’s attended regional, state and even national finals, and has listened to numerous contestants. Still, he walks away impressed every time.
Contestants gain public speaking skills while competing for college scholarship money.
“It’s a great opportunity for a student who’s motivated,” he said.
Two of the contestants in Saturday’s lineup earned scholarships in previous years. State winners receive $1,500; runners-up, $1,000; and the next three finishers get $800 each. Top state winners receive scholarships just for attending the national level and then compete for the top three awards of $18,000, $16,000 and $14,000.
Saturday’s event is open to the public. Attendees should plan to arrive between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m. at the Lawrence J. Bauer Post, 2160 M-37, south of Hastings.