Political parties unite to support youth leadership skills

speech contest - Towns County

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County’s Republican and Democratic parties have joined forces in an effort to promote leadership skills among area youth. Initiated in 2009 by members of the Towns County GOP, the annual “Top of Georgia Student Development Speech Contest” was created to bolster the confidence and encourage achievement for local students. Specialized preparation is offered by members of the speech contest committee, and this year’s event will be chaired by 2019 winner Samantha Church. Church was the first student selected in the history of the program to chair the committee.

“Prior to the contest, participants receive concentrated training and practice in the various nuances of preparing and presenting speeches,”  Towns County GOP Chair Betsy Young explained.

Samantha Church

Contest Chair Samantha Church (right) with Georgia State Senator John Wilkinson at a 2019 political function.

Speech contest participants will compete for a $400 prize, awarded to the top winners in the middle school and high school divisions. Organizers expect over 60 student speakers to take part in the upcoming event. Six preliminary sessions will be held, and the winners will compete on Feb. 25, 2020, at the Towns County Senior Center in Hiawassee.

Adam Penland, the contest’s sole two-time winner, went on to take top place in the state’s Future Business Leaders of America speech contest and placed runner-up in the national event. “Communication skills are the number one skills most employers look for when hiring employees, so the information you gain from this program can expand your options for employment more than you ever thought you could,” Penland said in support of the leadership training.

Past winners have proceeded to be selected to introduce state elected leaders at public events.

“Being competent in public speaking automatically instills confidence in a person as they navigate the roadways of life,” Towns County Democrats’ Chair Charlene Sleczkowski said. ” That’s why offering such an opportunity, beginning at the middle school level – 6th through 8th grades – and continuing through high school – 9th through 12th grades – gives our students a leg up in life over others.”

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