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Spellers excel and speakers peak

In two highly celebrated competitions, county students showed their mastery of the art of words, both how they are formed and how they are used.

Last month it was the spelling bee and last week, it was the public speaking competition.

On Feb. 18, a field of 16 students – 10 from the Apalachicola Bay Charter School and six from the Franklin County School – took center stage at the Chapman Auditorium to see who was the district’s top speller

With Apalachicola Times Editor David Adlerstein serving as pronouncer, and retired educator Elinor Mount-Simmons and Bring Me A Book Franklin Director Karen Kessel as judges, the bee got underway.

In order, ABC fifth grader Mahaylee Martina, ABC sixth grader Braelin Morris, FCS sixth grader Sage Barber, ABC eighth grader Owen Juno, ABC fourth grader Payton Mallon, ABC eighth grader Richie Lehnert, FCS sixth grader Ayden Millender, FCS fourth grader Aubrianna Davis, ABC fourth grader James Floyd, FCS fifth grader Isabella Frye, ABC seventh grader Ryan Sandoval, ABC sixth grader Ayla Miller, ABC fifth grader Easton Johnson, FCS seventh grader Skye Wilsey, ABC seventh grader Elena Rodriguez and FCS fourth grader Mya Barber each took a shot.

The words “faltered,” “decimal,” “proctors,” and “aversion” forced a few to sit down, but otherwise the contestants sailed through such words as “playlist,” “wretched,” “ransacked,” “fetlocks” and “herbalist.”

The competitors moved on to nail such words as “larkspur,” “fractious” and “brocade,” but “assassination” and “embrodiery” sent a couple packing.

Finally, it was down to just two, Morris and Rodriguez.

Morris nailed “motley” but he stumbled on “mousse.” 

Rodriguez got “repast” right, and then “Des Moines,”and she had her second district title in three years, having won it as a fifth grader.

An avid reader, Rodriguez has been reading a historial novel lately about Ona “Oney” Judge Staines, a woman of mixed races who was enslaved to the George Washington family, before becoming a fugitive slave. She fled to New Hampshire, where she married, and had children.

She’s been learning Spanish with a tutor on Zoom,and has been taking piano classes with St. George Island’s Martha Gherardi Watson.


Large field takes on public speaking


On Friday, at the county extension office, 20 students took part in the 4-H County Public Speaking Competition, judged by Becky Comyns, a Master Gardener volunteer and retired environmental administrator at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and her husband associate professor of marine science, at the University of Southern Mississippi, along with Carrie Jones, environmental supervisor with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

In the morning it was time for the Fourth and Fifth Grade division, which included students from four venues.

From the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, Easton Johnson spoke on “Music,” Ava Everett on “Why pets do not make good presents” and Amelia Wolferseder on “My Dream Job: Interior Designer.”

From the Franklin County Schools, Myleigh Beasley spoke on the topic of “Orlando Universal Studios,” Aubree Brown on “Hunter x Hunter” and Knowledge Richards on “Saving the Ocean.”

From the First Baptist Christian School, speakers were Kairi Trest on “Wolves, Howlers of the Night,” Logan Fuentes on “The War Between Americans” and Caleb Varner on “My Robot Cosmo.”

Ava Everett took the top prize, and received a full $450 scholarship to summer camp. Trest was selected as runner-up, and Fuentes finished in third place.

Following the lunch break, it was time for the Sixth Grade division 

From the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, Brody Johnson spoke on “My Family,” Allie Dearinger had the topic of “Softball” and Makenna Hathcock addressed “Organization.”

From First Baptist Christian School, Emma Fuentes spoke on “You are the Author,” Khloe Creel-Walker on “Snakes of Deadliness” and Viola Martin on “Casper”.

Franklin County Schools’ speakers included Madalynn Riley on “How People Get Diabetes,” Sarah Brice on “Minecraft Gamemodes” and Allysia Belknap on “Soccer.”

Homeschooled student Bailey Allen had planned to speak on “Immortality: A Gift or a Curse?” but was absent due to illness.

The top finisher was Riley, and she too will receive a full scholarship to summer camp. Fuentes finished second and Johnson third.

Everett and Riley will continue on to the District III competition in Wakulla County, April 23.

This year Florida 4-H partnered with Florida Power & Light Company, which provided a $100,000 gift to support the program over the next five years, funding supplies needed to hold the program in classrooms across the state, and culminating in classroom, school and county level contests.

 The theme of this year’s National 4-H Week — Find Your Spark — captures the spirit of the public speaking program and FPL’s hopes for its future, said Pam Rauch, vice president for external affairs and economic development at FPL.

“Communicating your ideas to an audience is a critical life skill that will benefit students for years to come,” said Derby Sale, state 4-H youth citizenship and leadership coordinator. 

Formerly known as the 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Contest, the program was established in 1952. Since then, millions of students have participated in the program, where they learn the fundamentals of preparing and giving a speech on a topic that interests them.

All participants start at the classroom level, where teachers help them develop their ideas into a three to five-minute speech. The top three speechmakers from each classroom move on to the school-level competition. Finally, each school sends the top three students from each grade on to the county competition.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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