ST. MARYS — Memorial High School freshman Alexis Sutton loves learning.
Her eyes light up when she talks about school and anything academic-related, so it’s no surprise that she excels in these areas. She is proud of her 4.0. During study hall, she tries to motivate her friends to do their homework when their response is, “Oh, I’ll do it later.”
It should be no surprise that Alexis would excel in such a thing as God, Flag and Country, a speech competition organized through the Eagles. This year marks the fifth year Alexis will be participating, and three of those years she advanced as far as the district level. Last year, she made it to the zone level, and today, she will compete there for a final time.
“When I was in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, we had to do it as an assignment,” she said.
Her first year, her fifth grade teacher at the Intermediate School, Mrs. Hertenstein, heard her speech and encouraged Alexis to take it one step further and compete. The person she was five years ago and the girl who will speak today are different, Alexis said about herself.
“School was my thing,” she said, and described herself as being shy and nervous to talk to people.
Now she said she loves giving speeches, that it is her thing.
“God, Flag and Country has opened me up to people,” Alexis said.
Alexis was the only student from Memorial High School to enter the competition this year, and as it is not something promoted in the classroom at the high school level, all 14 to 15-year-old participants skip the school level and go straight to the city competition. This year was the biggest group she had seen there, and one of the best as far as the quality of the speeches.
“There were a few good ones, but I was the only one who memorized my speech,” Alexis said. “It’s mandatory once you move on to district — you have to memorize your speech.”
The district competition was tougher, she said.
“The guy I competed against had a really good speech,” Alexis said. “I couldn’t believe I got first.”
This same participant beat Alexis the first time she competed against him.
“You’ve got that competitive spirit,” Alexis said. “But I always say let the best man win.”
She sees it as a great opportunity to have fun, meet new people, learn new skills, and to get better at public speaking.
“I love giving speeches,” she said. “The fact that I get to be me. Because I love school and I love to learn new things and just (be) able to share knowledge.”
So many years in the competition has helped her academically, as well, she says. Giving presentations or speeches in the classroom is a lot easier. She has also enjoyed seeing her own personal growth through the speeches she writes. At a younger age level, participants are encouraged to use props in their speech, but less so at Alexis’ age level. Judges are looking more for delivery and personality in the speeches.
“You’ve got to talk about the serious and the good parts of America,” she said.
This year, Alexis’ speech focused on the concept of “I am” — what that statement means to individuals, and collectively to Americans. It’s about “how it defines the American dreams that we have; how we can overcome the fears and obstacles in life and just be ourselves,” she said.
She incorporates historical tidbits about Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart overcoming adversity and as examples of what it means to be true to who you are. It is her favorite speech she has written for the God, Flag and Country competition to date.
“I think it just fits my maturity level,” Alexis said. “I love the message I get out of the speech. I believe in what I’m saying.”