Thursday, October 14, 2010
This change provides many new opportunities for Clubs to find contestants! Try approaching a debate team or drama club at the local high school to find new participants. Invite the Members of a local JOOI Club to enter. Hang posters promoting the contest with your Club Chair’s contact information in the library or local community center. Ask the local high school if they will run a promotional piece about the contest in the school newspaper.
Clubs are still encouraged to invite junior high and middle school students to participate. Competing in the contest provides them with valuable public speaking experience and gives them a chance to showcase their skills. Students may enter the contest every year until they win a District-level scholarship, as long as they meet the age requirement.
The decision to raise the age eligibility requirement for the Oratorical Contest was made by the 2009-2010 International Activities Committee. This decision was made after a lengthy discussion and thoughtful consideration. The committee saw merit in making the requirements consistent for both the Optimist Oratorical and Essay scholarship contests. It was recognized that students in their junior and senior year of high school are the most focused on obtaining scholarships since they will be attending college in the near future. The committee felt it would benefit and serve more youth if the age limit was raised and create a larger contestant pool for Clubs and Districts. Committee Members also felt that public speaking is an important skill for older students to have that will be utilized greatly during their college years and even in the workplace.
The rationale for allowing the younger students to compete with the older students has not changed. Since there has been no minimum age for a number of years, many Clubs have had students in the 5th and 6th grades competing against high school sophomores. Allowing the younger students to participate gives them the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills. There have been a number of cases where Districts have had students at age 10-12 scoring higher in the contest than students at 15-16. If the young students do not win a District scholarship, they are welcome to continue to enter the contest each year until they do. They have the opportunity to learn from the older students while gaining valuable experience and fine-tuning their skills.
While some students may be deterred from competing against older students, there is also a number who will be accepting and ready to take on the challenge. The students who shy away from the contest this year may see how well their peers did and decide to compete next year. The intent is not to deter these younger students from participating but to open this opportunity to more students.
Originally posted on Optimist News, Oct 4th and Oct 12th, 2010