Two Island speakers heading to provincial-level competition

Amara Wilson-Zegil, left, and Amber Brizuela, right, will be advancing to the provincials in Niagara Falls on May 4. They competed this past weekend along with April Torkopoulos. photo by Michael Wilson-Zegil

NEW LISKEARD—Manitoulin Island’s ‘A-team’ of youth public speaking superstars have once again offered an exemplary display of their talents at the Royal Canadian Legion’s area-level public speaking competition, held this past weekend in New Liskeard.

“I’m really excited and happy. They laughed at a lot of my jokes,” said Gore Bay’s Amara Wilson-Zegil, who took a first-place finish in the junior age division. Her speech on the 1966 Batman series proved a favourite with the judges once more.

She faced a unique challenge in her competitor who spoke entirely in French. 

“I didn’t understand a lot of what he said; I could only understand a couple of words but my mom said he spoke very well,” Amara said.

It was a packed weekend for her family who had to miss a portion of Amara’s three-on-three hockey tournament in Little Current to travel to New Liskeard, then race back to finish the series.

“It’s funny because, much like this weekend, at the provincials in Niagara Falls we have to drive right back because Amara has a ballet recital the next day,” said her father Michael Zegil.

Manitoulin Secondary School student April Torkopoulos took second place in the senior category for her impassioned speech about the high cost of post-secondary education.

“It was the best presentation I’ve ever done with that speech and my mom thought so too,” April said. “Even though I didn’t win, I’m pretty proud of how I said it.”

She was up against a speaker who extoled the benefits of being told ‘no.’ April has been involved in the higher levels of the Legion’s public speaking competitions six times now.

“It’s an awesome opportunity because I gained the skill of being able to speak in front of a big audience,” said April. “To the people just starting, I’d say don’t give up after your first try. The first time is scary, but each time you do it, it gets easier and you improve every time you speak.”

Missing the chance to attend provincials might have worked out okay for April—she is participating in a French-language provincial public speaking competition at York University’s Glendon campus on the same day as the Legion provincials.

Central Manitoulin Public School’s Amber Brizuela proved a crowd favourite once more with her humorous look at her stepfather Perry’s cooking mishaps. She took first place in the junior division to advance to the next round.

“I’m really happy and really excited to go to the provincials,” she said. Her opponent spoke on the topic of her Christmas presents.

“I got a lot of laughs like usual. Even the ladies working in the kitchen said, ‘don’t let Perry in the kitchen!’”

Amber said she was expecting even tougher competition at the provincials and will be practicing to keep her skills sharp. This will be her first time visiting Niagara Falls, this year’s location for the provincials.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the falls. I hope they’re not frozen,” she said.

Both Amara and Amber will be representing Manitoulin Island at the provincial competition in Niagara Falls, which takes place next month on May 4.