Since 1966, the Barlow Public Speaking Contest has served as a traditional rite of passage for every Lower and Middle School student. Established by Interim Headmaster Thomas J. Barlow, each student is required to recite a poem or piece of literature to develop an appreciation of literature and build public speaking skills.
The tradition continued today as finalists from Grades 3–5 were selected to continue in a contest judged by current and former Glenelg Country School (GCS) faculty and staff. Each finalist was judged on poise, memorization, interpretation, articulation, and choice of material. This year, nine finalists and nine alternates took the stage in Mulitz Theater for the annual competition.
Head of School Greg Ventre remarked that “public speaking itself remains a valuable, important part of the GCS program,” as third graders in the Lower School participate in the contest through Middle School. Public speaking continues in the Upper School, where each senior makes a speech in front of the entire Upper School student body.
“This skill is something that we truly value, and it begins right here at the Barlow Public Speaking Contest,” says Ventre.
This year's finalists were third graders Alysa D., Ara G., and Macie M.; fourth-graders Aurora N., Emma R., and Cecelia S.; and fifth-graders Nora B., Juliana R., and Sureena S. The selected alternates, who also spoke, were third graders Audrey S., Landon T., and Christina Z.; fourth-graders Abby C., Anneka D., and Miles N.; and fifth-graders Chloe C., Milan S., and Zoe T.
The panel of judges—Walter Matson, Lynda Rotter, and Aaron Tolentino ’03—acknowledged the impressiveness of each student.
Matson, in his 25th year as a GCS teacher, said it was difficult for the judges to choose a winner from the third-grade finalists. However, because of the confidence displayed and articulated by Ara G., he was named the winner. Ara's poem, Confidence, was written by his sister and GCS sophomore, Noora.
Tolentino, a GCS alum, while announcing the winning fourth-grade speaker, admitted that he "couldn't imagine being [the student's age] and producing" what the audience witnessed. Stating the winner “musically delivered” the poem What is Music to You? by Sylvia Chidi, Tolentino announced Cecelia S., as the winner.
Announcing Juliana R. as the fifth-grade winner, Rotter, former head of the Lower and Primary Schools, was most impressed with Juliana’s “articulation of the words that were very similar” throughout her chosen poem, Forgetful Witch by Shel Silverstein.