Sussex County 4-H celebrate young public speakers

Did you know that staying eight seconds on a rodeo bull causes numerous requests for a young man’s autograph?  And “No Plate Like Home,” isn’t about Oz, it’s about what it feels like sliding into home plate at a softball game. From family pets, honoring historical figures, and relating stories of leadership and bravery – including taking a polar plunge – 23 4-H youth  participated at the 2013 Sussex County 4-H Public Speaking Contest, held on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

From left to right, Aydan Vanderwende, Jill Koski, Mikayla Ockels and Stephen Magee

A large crowd of supporters and family members braved the falling snow to support to support the young speakers, who competed in four age divisions; beginner (8-9), intermediate (10-11) junior (12-13) and senior (14 and older) Extemporaneous speaking debuted this year as a county-level category and challenged three candidates to sharpen their skills and think on their feet in front of an audience. Extemporaneous topics were assigned only 20 minutes before going on stage.

Meredith Carey, Age Division 10-11, topic was “A Leader and a Role Model.”Meredith is from the Bridgeville 4-H Mustangs

4-H'er at a lectern and microphone

This was Aydan Vanderwende’s first 4-H Public Speaking Contest, entering at the Beginner Age Division 8-9. His speech was entitled “Must Love Dogs” Aydan is a member of the Dublin Hill 4-H Club in Bridgeville.


The fear of public speaking is often cited as one of the most common phobias!

For 4-H youth members however, speaking before a crowd is easier thanks to the experience and public speaking practice learned at the club and county level.

Jill Koski, Age Division 12-13, talked about softball in “There’s No Place Like Home.” Jill lives in E. New Market, Md. and belongs to the Seaford Blue Jays 4-H Club


Aside from the new category, 4-H members select a topic of their choosing, focus their research and practice their oratory before presenting to an audience and a panel of judges. The speeches of the older age divisions are longer in length. 4-H contestants are evaluated on subject matter, thoroughness of their research, poise, appearance and natural delivery. Each year as 4-H’ers move up through the divisions, their confidence and ease at speaking before an audience is a proud and noticeable accomplishment.

Stephen Magee had only 20 minutes to prepare for his assigned topic, Favorite Family Memory. Stephen was one of three participants in a new Extemporaneous category. Stephen is a member of the Harbor Lights 4-H Club and lives in Lincoln.

“A lot of people do not realize the preparation time that goes into this event,” says Mary Argo, Sussex County 4-H Agent. “They select a topic and spend hours writing, organizing and practicing their speech. Knowing how to speak and speak well is a skill that will last them a lifetime,” Argo says.

Mikayla Ockels, Age Division 14-19, spoke on “Your True Nature”. Mikayla is from Milton and belongs to the Harbor Lights 4-H Club







The following 4-H youth have won their age division and four will repeat their speech and compete at the state level during the Delaware State Fair in July, 2013.


Winners are:


Name/Hometown/Division/Title/4-H Club:

  • Mikayla Ockels, Milton, Senior Division, “Your True Nature” Harbor Lights
  • Jill Koski, E. New Market, Md. Junior Division, “There’s No Plate Like Home” Seaford Blue Jays
  • Meredith Carey, Bridgeville, Intermediate Division, “A Leader and Role Model”! Bridgeville Mustangs
  • Aydan Vanderwende, Bridgeville, Beginner Division, ”Must Love Dogs” Dublin Hill
  • Stephen Magee, Lincoln, Extemporaneous Division, “A Favorite Family Memory” Harbor Lights

Other participants were: Jenna Anger, Rebecca Arpie, Kyle Morris, Autumn Lenhart, Micah Magee, Alanna Vanderwende, Kaylabeth Lubiniecki, Adrianna Cannon, Thomas McCabe, Joe Anderson, Meredith Carey, Luke Stachow, Kaitlyn Willin, Alexandria Nechay, Cline Broussard, Erin Carey, Matthew Rieley, James Rieley,  Olivia Goehringer.

2013 Sussex County 4-H Public Speaking winners will vie for state honors in July at the Delaware State Fair alongside the 4-H Public Speaking winners from Kent and New Castle County.  View the entire photo gallery here.

Photos by Jackie Arpie, 4-H Youth Photographer
Article by Michele Walfred


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