Local high school students recently competed for thousands of dollars in scholarship funds during Bluefield College’s Second Annual High School Speech Contest, featuring a keynote address from international feature writer and BC alumna Brandy Campbell.
Designed to promote the art of public speaking in a world of electronic communication, the BC High School Speech Contest showcased competitive speeches, four to six minutes in length, based on the theme, “My Life Purpose.” In addition to developing strong communication skills, the students earned cash prizes and scholarships.
Virginia Williams from North Tazewell, Virginia, earned first place and the grand prize of a $3,000 Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Scholarship to attend Bluefield College. A rising senior at Graham High School, she also won $300 in cash. Jenny Woodward is her speech teacher at GHS.
Kellie Morris of Rocky Gap, Virginia, won second place and a $2,000 Wampler Caudill Scholarship to attend BC. A senior at Rocky Gap High School, she also won $200 in cash. Her speech/English teacher at Rocky Gap is Vance Bird.
Amber Fullen of Princeton, West Virginia, won third place and a $1,000 Wampler Caudill scholarship to attend BC. A rising senior at Princeton Senior High School, Fullen also won $100 in cash. Mary Gaspersich is her speech/English teacher.
Three additional students won honorable mention awards, including David Somerville, a senior from Bluefield, Virginia, and Graham High School; Summer Eggers, a senior from Wytheville, Virginia, and George Wythe High School; and Micah Johnson, a senior home-school student from Tazewell, Virginia.
“I was exceptionally pleased with the passion and level of professionalism of the speeches at this year’s contest,” said Dr. Cindy Bascom, a BC professor of communication and director of the High School Speech Contest. “In fact, the scores were exceptionally close. I believe any of the top three contestants could have earned first prize.”
Dr. Bascom said the contestants boldly embraced the contest’s theme and spoke enthusiastically about their purpose in life. They shared thoughts about selecting demanding occupations to help underprivileged populations, becoming a wise and loving parent, and spreading the Lord’s Good News to the world.
“Service above self is one of Bluefield College’s core values,” Dr. Bascom said, “so our hope was to encourage the students to begin considering their options for a mission-driven or purpose-filled life and to boldly voice their important goals.”
Campbell, the keynote speaker, also addressed the “purpose” theme. As a feature writer for Compassion International, a non-profit ministry that serves more than one million children in poverty in 26 countries, Campbell has traveled to Ethiopia, West Africa, Guatemala, and Haiti to write stories that “move grown men to tears” in support of Compassion’s ministry.
“She is a compelling example of pursuing your purpose and living your passion,” said Dr. Bascom. “Her life demonstrates how a young, college-aged person can begin to develop her interests for travel, writing and missions, and then use those passions in a satisfying and challenging career.”
Judges for the Second Annual Bluefield College High School Speech Contest included Campbell, local newspaper columnist James “Smokey” Shott, BC chair of the Board of Trustees Julie Johnson, and Mercer Mall Chick-fil-A general manager Mike Wade.
Contest sponsors included the Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Fund, the Community Foundation of the Virginias, Dr. Donald W. Caudill, and Chick-fil-A of Mercer Mall.