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    By Todd Martin

    One after the other, 13 courageous Skipcha Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders took the microphone and described for an assembled audience their ideas of a hero.

    The speeches, part of the school’s annual contest, ranged the gamut of humorous and philosophical to touching and deeply personal.

    Most students pointed out in their speeches that a hero is not someone who wears a cape and displays superhuman strength, but is an average person consistently displaying extraordinary character and integrity.

    Some students described as heroes soldiers and law enforcement personnel and most described family members. The most often mentioned hero: dad.

    After each student delivered their speech during the contest Thursday, a panel of three judges determined the top three.

    The top three finishers, all fifth-graders, were first place Carol Roberts, second place Randy Poteau and third place Aurora Coakley. Each received a trophy.

    The fourth- and fifth-graders in this year’s oration contest included the following:

    Joshua Veiga, Matthias Harvey, Sofia Cordon, Julie Herrera, William Porr, Kyle Parker, Alexa Pearce, Ally Blackwell, Auroa Coakley, Kaitlyn Cook, Kelly McGuire, Carol Roberts and Randy Poteau

    The oration contest winner acknowledged that she is an accomplished talker, though delivering a formal speech, she admitted, was a challenge.

    “It feels amazing,” she said of her win among many talented peers. “It was a mix of nervousness and excitement. I just wanted to try my best.”

    Like many, she talked about heroism broadly and identified her father, Melvin Roberts, as her personal hero.

    She said her dad is an honorable man, now retired from the military, who patiently raises four children “without going crazy.”

    Roberts said she took part in the contest a year ago and that past experience helped. She also credited volunteers who helped students craft their speeches and said the contestants spent time practicing with one another and offering critiques.

    Eight years ago, Skipcha Assistant Principal Gloria Mays suggested the contest, sponsored nationally by Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial. Principal Carrie Parker supported the effort and it is now tradition at the school.

    Parker praised the students for doing what she said many adults would never do, deliver a formal speech to a live audience. She also thanked retired teacher Kathy Smallwood, for mentoring the students.

    In her speech, Roberts said her dad cares for her and the rest of her family members. She said a hero is someone who is tough and brave and courageously figures out problems such as stopping a bully or helping someone in need.

    Second-place finisher Poteau said a true hero serves and protects the innocent. He also praised his dad as a brave soldier who serves as good example and uses humor while enjoying family.

    Third-place finisher Coakley said heroes reveal themselves through the course of everyday life. She identified her family as her hero for inspiring her to do anything she sets her mind to do.

    Learning to speak formally, Roberts said, is a valuable skill. “When we get older,” she said, “we will know how to do something a lot of people don’t know how to do.”

    March 10, 2017

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