MSD middle schoolers get passionate in Optimist speech contest

Seventh and eighth grade winners. From left: Melissa Davis, first place; Delanzia Hayes, second place; Jayman Washington, third place; Pat Brauner, Optimists.

Seventh and eighth grade winners. From left: Melissa Davis, first place; Delanzia Hayes, second place; Jayman Washington, third place; Pat Brauner, Optimists. Photo by Dean Asher.

Missouri School for the Deaf middle schoolers spent Monday morning and afternoon talking about how their passions impact the world.

Fourteen sixth, seventh and eighth graders performed their speeches for the 35th annual Optimist Oratorical Competition. This year’s theme was “How my Passions Impact the World.”

The Breakfast Optimists Club hosts the speech competition each year at MSD as part of Optimist International’s Oratorical Contest. After competing in local contests, students in each region can go on to district competitions for the chance at a $5,000 scholarship.

Jennifer Dignan, MSD middle school teacher and competition co-chair, said students had been working on their speeches for about a month, doing research online and interviews with different members of the community to prepare. Students gave their speeches in American Sign Language (ASL) before a panel of three judges and were critiqued on presentation, appearance, delivery and impact.

“I was extremely impressed,” Dignan said. “My first thought was that I knew immediately for these deaf kids their passions were going to relate to their deafness, and sure enough a lot of their goals said or implied (that). I was really impressed with their thought process.”

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