Long Trail students win big at speech contest

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BENNINGTON — Using the power of the written word, twenty-seven middle school students from area schools had the opportunity to share and express their beliefs for the seventh annual Sarnoff Speech Contest.

Hosted by Southern Vermont College, the Sarnoff Speech Contest is based on the "This I Believe" segment that was hosted by Journalist Edward R. Murrow from 1951 to 1955 on the CBS Radio Network. The radio segment allowed both famous and everyday guests to share their essays on their beliefs with the network's national audience.

The contest's guidelines asked for students to be specific about their beliefs in their essays, and to ground their ideas based on a real-life events. Essays were written about a number of different topics including family, friends, and death.

Lucy Farrell of Dorset's Long Trail School took home the first place award for her essay, which detailed her experience with an older male student at school. This student, Farrell describes, made school an uncomfortable place for her, following Farrell around and making comments about her. One of the teachers at her school told her to just ignore him. Instead, she stood up for herself and made her voice heard, which resulted in the expulsion of the male student.

"I think the contest was a really good experience and I learned a lot from it," Farrell said. "I'm glad I was able to make something positive out of the situation."

MacKenzie Smith, also of Long Trail School, took home the trophy for second place. Zoe Kerns of Pine Cobble School came in third place. All students who participated were granted with a certificate and a medal. English teachers who had students enrolled in the competition were given a small prize, too. Student winners got either cash prizes or gift certificates.

Drury High School, the Maple Street School, Mount Anthony Union Middle School and the Mountain School at Winhall were represented, as well.

The essay contest was sponsored by students in the Quest for Success Class "Speak Up and Speak Out" taught by part-time English lecturer Jenny Dunning and Tracey Forest, a senior English lecturer.

Quest for Success is a class required for all entering freshman at SVC, to help them become involved and articulated with the campus community.

"I was just blown away with by what the students had to say and the depth of the essays and their voices," Denning said.

Although Denning has been at SVC for the past three years, this was her first year helping teach a 'Quest for Success' class. Ten students from the class helped run and support the event.

"We got commuter and resident students working together and supporting each other," She said.

Denning and a few of the other kids from the class were judges for the contest, along with some other SVC students.

The contest was funded by the Milton and Dorothy Sarnoff Raymond Foundation. Sarnoff was an American operatic soprano and musical theatre actress, author, and self-help guru. She held a performing career from the 1930s to the 1950s. Sarnoff performed with the New York City Opera and created several roles on Broadway — one of them that of Lady Thiang in the original 1951 cast of "The King and I."

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