Island students sweep Legion zone public speaking competition

ESPANOLA—In an impressive display of oratory prowess, students from Manitoulin Island took top prizes in the Royal Canadian Legion Zone H3 Public Speaking Competition, held this past Sunday in Espanola.

Amber Brizuela (Central Manitoulin Public School), Amara Wilson-Zegil (Charles C. McLean Public School), Mason Leighton (Charles C. McLean Public School) and April Torkopoulos (Manitoulin Secondary School) all took first place in the primary, junior, intermediate and senior divisions respectively.

“Island speakers always do really well, there’s a really good history of public speaking in schools on Manitoulin Island,” said Martha Cunningham Closs, chair of youth education for Zone H3 of the Royal Canadian Legion. She added that Manitoulin schools tend to do a good job of nurturing public speaking abilities in children.

“Some regions don’t have the same support, so when the kids get to the Legion that’s their first time speaking in front of other people,” said Ms. Cunningham Closs. 

“There were some very competitive, ambitious speakers who have worked their whole lives to where they’re going to be really good, and some go on to be provincial champions,” she said.

One of the newer competitors at this year’s event was Amber in the primary division, who got a good audience response for her speech on home cooking mishaps.

“I felt really happy. The best part was, I really liked when a lot of people laughed. There was more people than in Little Current,” she said.

She added that she already has high hopes for the next round of competitions, which take place March 24 in Magnetawan.

“I’m really excited. I’ve been practicing a lot,” said Amber. “I think it’s going to be a lot cooler.”

Representing the high school division was public speaking veteran April Torkopoulos, who has reached this level of competition before. She said her speech on the costs of post-secondary education was motivated by her own experience as a Grade 12 student.

“I’ve been doing lots of research for which university I’d like to attend, and money is definitely a factor because it’s so expensive. Especially in current events with news on the Ford government’s tuition changes, it’s a topic that everyone needs to hear about because it’s so important to so many people,” said April.

Amara took first place in the junior division for her speech on 1966 Batman and Mason Leighton’s speech on money earned him a top-spot finish for the intermediate division.

The Dunn Church Legion Branch #394 in Magnetawan will host the District H round of competition on March 24. From there, the winners will advance to the area competitions and finally to the provincials.