Windham High School junior Madison Mauro recently won the state competition in the Lions Club International Speak-Out Contest with her speech about freedom of expression on physical and digital planes. From freedom of speech and freedom of expression, she argued and defended her position on the local level, regional level and finally to the state level. Her faculty advisor at WHS was Tom Noonan.
“Clearly they have a voice and opinions. This takes them outside their comfort zones,” Noonan said.
Noonan, who teaches AP English, uses this contest as a way to prepare the students for one of the essays on the AP exam. The students study language, rhetoric and persuasion. “This is an authentic, true life experience,” he said.
Camille Swander has been coordinating with WHS for eight years as the Lions Club representative. The students pick a topic of local, state, national or international interest and prepare a five minute speech. They then research the topic until they know it and are comfortable with it. Points are taken off if the student uses notecards during the presentation. The students were judged in 10 areas, including voice, enunciation, pace, appearance, construction, interest, replies and manner of response.
“They are scored on how well they respond and the depth of knowledge,” said Swander.
The students use a minimum of eight sources and at Windham are helped by the librarian at the high school. They created a central argument and take a perspective on the topic. It’s an opinion piece with facts to back up their position, Noonan said.
“I’m like a proud papa. They are young budding experts. To hear a teenager say [his opinion] is really powerful,” he added.
The students in the class do the paper for class and present it for the 10 extra bonus points toward their grades. “The students don’t realize they take it to the next level,” Noonan said. After two months of research, like a typical college assignment, they are invested in their topic and it’s more than the points.
Mauro competed against 12 others at the local level, which took place in the classroom. Then she went against five other winners from the region at a competition held in Gray. Finally, she went to the state competition in Auburn at the Maine Lions District Convention, where she competed against five others.
“You’re always nervous about giving a speech to people. The questions were hard,” Mauro said. She was asked questions about cyberbulling, if American’s are too sensitive when it comes to certain topics and the difference between editorializing and freedom of expression.
“It’s subjective, the questions. Some get easier questions than others,” said Noonan.
Mauro was awarded prize money at each level earning over $700 for her efforts. Her plans are to put the money in the bank for her first semester books for college.
“I didn’t realize how much I like speaking in front of people. The higher I got, the more I liked it. It is something I want to pursue.” Mauro was interested in marine biology, but now sees a future in political science and government too. She is looking at the University of Tampa and Georgetown University for after high school.
Some of the other topics were sleep deprived teens, eating disorders, and celebrities impacting fans with their bad behavior.
“We are so thankful our faculty staff member, Tom Noonan,” said Swander.