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Modern Woodmen awards winners in national speech contest

Six others receive honorable mentions. 

August 25, 2016

Three national winners and six honorable mentions have been named in Modern Woodmen of America’s 2016 School Speech Contest.

  • First place: Marcus Dowd, a fifth-grade student at Carolina Forest International Academy in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
  • Second place: Claire Perry, a seventh-grade student at Our Lady of Pompeii School in New York City.
  • Third place: Ella Grace Rodriguez, an eighth-grade student at Maitland Middle School in Orlando, Florida.

The students who received honorable mentions in the national contest are:

  • Yair Guerrero, Aurora, Illinois.
  • Kennedy Mayclin, Plankinton, South Dakota.
  • Natalie Cusick, Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Averi Muniz, DeSoto, Missouri.
  • Ethan Rombalski, Auburn, Maine.
  • Jordan Fenty, Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The topic for this year’s nationwide contest was “hunger in America,” which encouraged student speakers to consider who is affected by hunger, how it impacts their schools or communities, what factors contribute to hunger and what steps individuals, communities and governments can take to combat it.

Dowd discussed the ways citizens can combat food insecurity, such as volunteering with Meals on Wheels or contributing to local food pantries. “I hope there comes a day where people of all sizes, regions, backgrounds and ages can get enough to eat for three meals a day. This day has not come yet, but I believe that it can,” said Dowd.

Perry also shared programs and services designed to combat food insecurity: the WIC program, free school lunch programs, community-based food pantries and meal services. She offered a surprising statistic: “One in seven Americans – that’s 46 million people – rely on these food programs to feed themselves and their families.”

Rodriguez shared her story of meeting Mike Jones, a homeless man she crossed paths with during a Washington, D.C. mission trip in 2015. “He was happy,” she began. “He explained to me how his life was difficult, but he tried to make the best of it. And he told me about the many nights he was starving, but yet he still tried to find joy.” 

The School Speech Contest, one of five youth educational programs sponsored by Modern Woodmen, is provided to schools across the country at no charge. For more than 65 years, students have gained confidence and improved their communication skills by participating in this contest. More than 86,000 young people competed in 2016, of which 24 advanced to the national judging in July.

Initial entries in the contest are accepted from January 1 to May 31 each year. Students competing at the national level must advance through their school, county and state competitions. Modern Woodmen financial representatives sponsor the contests on the local level.

The national first-, second-, and third-place winners earn a $2,000, $1,500 and $1,000 Modern Woodmen Bank educational savings account, respectively, as well as two award plaques – one for the recipient and one for the school.

Modern Woodmen serves members for life. The tax-exempt fraternal benefit society offers life insurance, annuity and investment* products to improve the quality of life of its members, their families and their communities. In turn, members make an impact through social, educational and volunteer activities. In 2015, Modern Woodmen and its members provided $19.2 million and 438,000 volunteer hours for community projects nationwide. 

To learn more about Modern Woodmen and its free youth educational programs, visit www.modernwoodmen.org.



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