• Winners: Sarah Gerber, Lambert High; Matthew Cunningham and Sarah Kale, both of South Forsyth High; and Aditya Bhave, Riverwatch Middle
• Semifinalists: Gabriela Korobtov, Forsyth Central High; Zach Brumbalow, Liberty Middle; Amber Shell, Otwell Middle; Sam Gutierrez and Dani Madda, both of Pinecrest Academy; Lindsey Bradford and Manthan Sonawane, both of Piney Grove Middle; Tina Qin, South Forsyth Middle; and Arjun Karanam, Vickery Creek Middle.
Wrapping up a weeklong event, four winners were selected Thursday night to represent Forsyth County in the Optimist Oratorical Contest’s zone competition later this month.
The local competition began with 5,000 applicants from all the middle and high schools in the county and ended when Sarah Gerber, Sarah Kale, Matthew Cunningham and Aditya Bhave edged nine other students following six nights of competition.
The local event is sponsored by the Sawnee-Cumming and Forsyth-Cumming Optimist clubs. This year students were asked why their voices are important.
“They were excellent speakers,” said event organizer Janice Norman, with the Sawnee-Cumming club. “Some have been working on this probably since the fifth grade and every year they just get better.”
Forsyth’s four winners will go on to the zone competition March 23 in Gainesville. The north Georgia and state competitions follow in April.
In addition to gaining confidence in public speaking, the contest also awards $2,500 scholarships to the state’s male and female winners.
The competition is open to sixth- through 12th-grade students, though Forsyth allows fifth-graders to compete to gain experience.
“It’s more like a training program for them to go on and compete with the older kids,” she said. “We see them through the years start off as fifth-graders and then develop into really, really excellent speakers.”
Speeches this year covered political change, school bullying and encouragement leading to success, among others.
This was the 20th year Norman has been involved in the event.
“It’s just so rewarding for me and for our whole club,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but when you see these students go on and you see them through the years become such accomplished speakers … it’s just so rewarding.
“You also feel like you’re paying your civic rent by being involved in something that helps the students.”