Clovis North High School junior Eric Escareno was awarded first place in the American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Competition on Sunday, Jan. 6, at the Clovis Veterans’ Memorial building.
“Eric was very, very surprised,” says Chad Hayden, teacher and debate coach at Clovis North, who said he felt Escareno has a very dynamic speaking ability. “He didn’t think he was anywhere near taking first, but he was pleased, happy with it.”
Five students participated this year at the Post level competition: Ariana Ruiz from University High, Claire Vandiver from Buchanan, and Billy Erysian, Eric Escareno and Nicholas Rouillard from Clovis North. American Legion Post 147 Commander, Frank Ducar, presented the awards.
“A contestant gives two speeches,” explains Alan Fry, Post Oratorical Chairperson. “The first is an eight to 10 minute presentation on a subject of his choosing pertaining to the Constitution and a citizen’s responsibility to it. The second speech is three to five minutes, and it is on one of the assigned topics. They need to prepare for all four as one is drawn at the contest and they have five minutes to compose their thoughts before presenting. Assigned topics change each year.”
The first place award was $400, second place was $300, and every participant gets $100. Each first-round winner who advances but does not qualify for the finals receives an additional $1,500 scholarship.
“Not all Posts get contestants,” says Fry. “Five or six is about the right number for a contest but the more contestants we get we can pass them on to another Post for a contest.”
Participants earn some of the most generous college scholarships available to high school students. Over $138,000 in scholarships can be awarded each year.
“The winner advances to the District level [that encompasses two counties] and there is scholarship money there for participants,” says Fry. “The winner there advances to the Area competition and the same holds true. The winner of the State competition receives $1500 and advances to the Nationals where the contestant and a chaperone receive all their expenses to Indianapolis. The contestant receives $1500 just for doing one contest there, win or lose.”
At the National level, first place receives $18,000, second gets $16,000 and third takes $14,000. Scholarships may be used to attend any college or university in the United States.
First held in 1938, the competition’s main purpose is for high school students to develop knowledge and appreciation of the United States Constitution. For example, this year’s contest assigned topics were the first, fourth, 13th and 21st Amendments.
The competition also serves as a means to develop leadership skills, develop the ability to think and speak clearly, gain an understanding of American citizenship and help financially prepare for higher education.
“Our next contest is Feb. 17 at 1:00 pm, then the Department finals on March 3 at 1:00,” said Fran Kilgore, Chairperson for the upcoming District, Area, Department and National Oratorical contests.
This year the Post, District, Area and State finals will be held in Clovis at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building Auditorium. It is free to the public. Nationals will be held in Indianapolis.
Students who may want to participate in the Oratorical Program should consider attending the contests to become familiar with the proceedings.
“It’s a great event because you have to create an eight to 10 minute long speech and you have to be able to make it entertaining,” says Hayden.
For additional information about the High School Oratorical Scholarship Program or the many other youth programs offered by the American Legion, visit legion.org.