Sixth-grader wins honors in public speaking

July 22, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

CLEAR SPRING - Hannah Smith isn't at a loss for words.

The Clear Spring Middle School sixth-grader was named statewide Reserve Champion for the 4-H Public Speaking Contest held in June at the University of Maryland College Park.

"I thought public speaking would help me out now and in the future," said Hannah, 11. "I've found confidence in myself."

She advanced to the state level of competition after winning at county and regional levels, she said. Hannah placed second out of nine competitors in the junior category with a speech titled "Voting - Why It's Important," which she wrote and delivered.


Information gleaned from essay research about the topic prompted Hannah to write her speech on the subject, she said.

"It made me think of how important it is to vote, so I decided to express my feelings through speech," said Hannah, the daughter of John and Paula Smith, of Clear Spring.

She said she discovered public speaking as an emotional outlet when she was 8 years old. After being teased by other kids about her weight, Hannah said she wrote a speech titled "Prejudice - A Word of the Past."

"I wanted to express my inner feelings," she said.

Hannah delivered her semi-autobiographical speech to county and regional 4-H audiences.

"When the people left, I think they kinda had a different feeling inside of them," she said. "And it made me feel a lot better than keeping those feelings inside."

Besides serving as a platform for her feelings and opinions, public speaking has made Hannah more articulate and less nervous, she said.

She tackles her stage fright by practicing her speeches many times for her family, and by focusing on a point above the judges' heads, Hannah said. That's a trick she said she learned from her older sister, who also pursued public speaking through 4-H.

"I saw the fun things that she got to do so I wanted to join, too," Hannah said.

More than 1,400 Washington County youth participate in annual 4-H activities, which promote the development of such life skills as decision-making, creative thinking and communication, according to information from the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

Hannah is a member of the Washington County 4-H Dairy Club. Maximizing her oratorical abilities as one of that group's ambassadors, Hannah articulated the importance of 4-H during a County Commissioners budget hearing, she said.

Hannah also enjoys judging farm animals in search of the "ideal cow," and participating in agricultural expositions and the Dairy Quiz Bowl, she said.

It wasn't just her love of farm animals that prompted another of Hannah's speeches: "Got Milk?"

Hannah's father, a former 4-H member, operates the Clear Spring dairy farm that has been in his family for five generations, Paula Smith said.

Hannah may be helping on that farm one day. She said she wants to be a veterinarian for farm animals, and a well-spoken one.

She will continue public speaking, but plans to leave politics at the voting booth, she said.

Every vote counts, Hannah said.

"You can't complain about Bill Clinton if you didn't vote for him ... I just needed an example," Hannah added with a chuckle.

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