North Ridgeville High students tackle tough topics in Rotary speech contest

North Ridgeville

By Michael Fitzpatrick

Five North Ridgeville High School speech students competed in the North Ridgeville Rotary’s 4-Way Test Speech Contest during the group’s luncheon on March 24.

The five students competed for prize money and to represent the group at the district-level competition, which will be held in April at Aurora High and will pay the first-prize winner $1,200.

The test dates back to 1932 when a Rotarian in Chicago by the name of Herbert J. Taylor came up with the idea of the Four-Way Test question “as a way to provoke thought and embody values dear to the rotary,” according to the Rotary.

The test relates to things we think, say and do and examines them by applying the following questions:
Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

In the North Ridgeville contest students were told to use the four-way test to resolve an issue from “their personal experience” or one they had general “knowledge of.”

The five students who competed in the finals – Koal Black, Jordan King, Lindsey Pellerite, Rachel Schonhuitt, Percy Whipkey – were whittled down from an original field of 19.

The speech was to last between five and seven minutes, and a panel of five judges, made up of North Ridgeville Rotarians, scored the five presenters, with the student scoring the highest being declared the winner.

The students chose some tough topics. One student talked about discrimination against transgender people. Another discussed growing up the child of a parent addicted to drugs, and another student talked about the stigma associated with being the victim of a sexual assault.

North Ridgeville High School English teacher Brandon Muck helped the students with their speeches. His only requirement was that the students be able to make it through their speech without breaking down emotionally, which for some of the speakers was difficult because of the subject matter.

Schonhuitt, whose speech was rated best by the judges, spoke about the unfairness of standardized testing and how it is not a good measure of a student. She said she’s proven herself to be a good student over her academic career, but a low score on a college entrance exam could affect where she goes to college and ultimately her life.

Performing the speech was daunting, but she said her passion for the subject carried her through.
Schonhuitt said it was difficult to compete against students who in some cases were discussing such personal issues in their speeches.

“Everyone had really good stories and was equally fantastic. I was really fortunate to come out first,” said Schonhuitt, who was still revising her speech the night before she delivered it.

Morris Schonhuitt, the father of the winner, said his daughter’s thrived in school and has been writing since her earliest days.

“She’s excelled scholarly and academically since kindergarten,” Morris Schonhuitt said. “She’s just a great kid.”

North Ridgeville City Schools Superintendent Jim Powell, who also served as one of the judges, thanked all the students for participating and said picking a winner was a tough choice.

“You guys did a great job of representing our school,” Powell said.

Rotarian Patricia Bahr, who ran the speech contest, and is the former principal at North Ridgeville High, said the five students who participated represented the best young people today have to offer.

“They can make a difference and they want to make a positive difference,” Bahr said.

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