Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Event speaks volumes for talent of area youths

The admonition “Judge not, lest ye be judged” rolls off me like water off Esther Williams’ back, because I enjoy judging and I don’t mind being judged in return.

The kind of judging I do does not require a law degree and there’s no six-year term such as real judges enjoy.

My judging is done on a volunteer basis and involves such community events as Mardi Gras parades in Fairport Harbor, beauty contests, pie-baking contests, chili cook-offs, dessert competition and other area events of note, some breath-taking and some not.

My favorite assignment, and the most difficult, involves 12 to 15 speakers at the junior high level, held each year around this time at Ss. Robert and William Catholic School in Euclid.

So it was not without expectation that I received a letter not so long ago from Patrice Garuckas, who teaches language arts (my favorite subject) at the school. She said the students and she were looking forward to seeing me at the annual Modern Woodmen of America speech competition at the school on April 18 — a significant date if you think in terms of Paul Revere’s Ride and the birthday of our puppy, Maggie.

I look forward to it because it is fun. The kids are great, they really have honed their speaking skills, and they are almost as nervous as I am as the moment approaches.

It is also difficult, because all the kids do such a good job — on a gymnasium stage facing hundreds of other students — and it is not easy choosing three winners out of, this year, 15 contestants when their presentations are separated by only the smallest of margins.

This year’s topic was “A Time When Volunteers Have Made a Difference.” Speeches must be between three and five minutes, with penalties assessed if they are too short or too long.

I have been judging these contests for longer than I can remember. Patrice, who lives in Kirtland, would probably know. Her second letter revealed who the other two judges would be. I couldn’t wait to find out.

One was Bill Cervenik, whom I know as an outstanding mayor of the City of Euclid and someone I don’t see nearly as often as I would like. He is also a graduate of Lakeland Community College, which makes me feel good.

The other, Patrice said, would be Richard Osborne, president of Villa Angela-St.Joseph High School. That puzzled me. I know a lot of Richard Osbornes.

As well as I know Rick and Rick Jr., the father-son team of Mentor businessmen, I wasn’t aware they had anything to do with that school.

Would it be the Rich Osborne I have known for many years who was an editor at The Lorain Journal, now The Morning Journal, then an editor at Cleveland Magazine, and whose column I always enjoyed when he was the editor of Ohio Magazine, a subsidiary of Cleveland Magazine?

Turns out he was the one, neatly trimmed white beard and all. So I was among friends. We raised our sharpened pencils and waited for the 15 contestants to take their turns at the lectern and display their speaking skills.

All of them were excellent. It was as difficult to choose among them as it was to pick the best 6-year-old majorettes at the Mardi Gras Parade.

But the three of us did our work diligently. And it was amazing how close we were in our final assessments. Using point totals that added up to 100 – and we didn’t look at each other’s papers – we found agreement on the top three. They were:

1. John Henry Posey, who spoke on the leadership qualities of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

2. Briana Caronchi, who told of the construction of seven homes for tornado victims in Joplin, Mo., on “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

3. Kiyla Cooper, who spoke about the trainers of service dogs.

Those were excellent topics, but matter of fact, all 15 topics were very good.

John Henry and Briana will travel May 26 to Ottawa-Glandorf High School to compete in the state championship.

Students in the local competition came from St. Helen, St. Anselm, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of the Lake and Ss. Robert and William Catholic School.

As it turned out, the three top winners were all from Ss. Robert and William. The judges had no idea who the kids were or where they were from until the competition had ended. But the folks at the school, including Patrice Garuckas, were sure proud of them.


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