On April 27, Harwood Union Middle School (HUMS) seventh graders performed three- to five-minute speeches they researched and wrote in the school’s 15th annual oratorical contest. All students performed their speeches in class, and 11 students were selected from the entire seventh grade to perform the speeches in front of an audience of students, faculty, and community members. Students were selected based on the quality of their in-class speeches. Harwood faculty -- Skylar Bradley, Heidi Turgeon-Baird, Genevieve Knight, Marcus Grace, and Jonah Ibson -- judged the contest, which was livestreamed and is available on YouTube and will be made available on MRVTV.


“This was our first year back in front of a live audience since COVID and it was one of the best we've ever hosted,” said HUMS English teacher Jon Potts. “I can't tell you how proud I am of the students.” 

“Students worked on speeches for around five weeks and presented their final speeches,” said seventh grader Cora Potts. “[We] learned how to collect research, create a works-cited page and write a speech.”

“To start the oratorical, you first had to choose a topic and research it, then combine your research and write a speech,” seventh grader Harmony Devoe said. “Then you had to ‘learn, but not memorize’ your speech to then share with your English class up at the lectern. Your speech was in front of you, but you were trying to make eye contact with your audience and look down as few times as you could. You also had to cite your research sources on an attached page. Some of the many various topics were zoos, the lack of BIPOC-owned farms in Vermont, nightmares, and what would happen to the world if humans disappeared.”

“The best thing is that students pick their own topics and learn about something that’s important to them, and it combines a lot of important skills,” Potts said.

The students selected to perform for the audience and judges were Cora Potts, Dahlia Jordan, Harmony Devoe, Ben Goldhammer, Jade Lawson, Sydney Schaller, Jane Schaefer, Tarin Askew, Emma Aither, Camille Edgcomb, and Emily Hill. 

Harmony Devoe was chosen as the winner of the competition for her speech, which included an original poem titled “Land” that explored equity and the dearth of many BIPOC-owned farms in Vermont. “Revolution/Is always based on land,” she wrote. Sydney Schaller and Emma Aither tied for third place and Jane Schaefer took second place.