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Montclair Immaculate Seniors Compete in Local Talk Community Foundations Public Speaking Competition

It took two hours of presentations and judging for the 45 Irvington Council Chamber gallery audience here Nov. 1 to learn which of the Local Talk Community Foundation High School Public Speaking Scholarship Competition participants will make the Nov. 22 championship round.

The five foundation judges, for about an hour, listened to 19 participants' responses to the question, "What Would You Do to Improve Your Hometown Make if You Were (it's) Mayor?"
The panel then spent another 45 minutes evaluating the competitors' presentations and tabulating their scores.

The field of 15 plus one alternate who are scheduled to speak again at Orange's Bella Italia Ristorante are:
- Jennifer Abiram, Irvington, Senior, Irvington High School.
- Chimezie Akagha, Irvington High School.
- Badjessa Bahoumda, Senior, Irvington High School.
- Imani Burroughs, East Orange, Senior, Immaculate Conception H.S.-Montclair.
- Terri Coleman, Newark, Junior, University High School.
- Xivandell Emmanuel, Orange, Senior, Orange High School.
- Gusvernande Jean Baptiste, Junior, Irvington High.
- Ainka Jean-Baptiste, Senior, Irvington High.
- Sedasia Montgomery-Nash, Senior, Irvington High.
- Ibn Muhammad, Junior, Irvington High.
- Tara Norman, Orange, Senior, Immaculate Conception H.S.
- Dustin Ramos (Alt.), Maplewood, Senior, Columbia High School.
- Ariel Salazar, Senior, Orange High.
- Miraj Seepersad, Freshman, Irvington High.
- Kwame Sekyere, Newark, Senior, Arts High School.
- Stefan Wilson, Senior, Orange High.
The foundation's second annual preliminary round yielded a wide range of students from six high schools in six "Local Talk" towns.

Irvington's Frank H. Morrell High School freshman Miraj Seepersad, for example, was among the competition's debuting participants. Orange residents Xivandell Emmanuel and Tara Norman, respectively representing Orange High School and Montclair's Immaculate Conception High, were making their second straight engagements.

The Nov. 1 preliminary and Nov. 22 championship rounds mark the fifth straight year that the "Local Talk" foundation has held its high school public speaking competition. Its awards have grown to a $5,000 scholarship for the best public speaker from an Essex County high school.
"Local Talk Community Foundation's competition gives students an immediate acceleration as well as a platform for their talents," said foundation president Dhiren Shah. "In urban Essex County, there wasn't a place for students to speak and show their talents."

The five judges awarded points in the following categories: clarity of speech, subject knowledge, presentation and eye contact and "judge's discretion."

The judging panel - East Orange General Hospital CFO Al Aboud, Orange Councilman Elroy Corbett, public speaker Lisa Durden, philanthropist Patricia Balavender and attorney-at-law Anuj Shah - still found themselves making some tough decisions due to the competitors' high quality. Their hard work was in spite of the contest's growing popularity prompting a preliminary round last year.

"I'm actually learning something from them every time I'm here," said Corbett. "I'm listening to what our future leaders have to say and how they're saying it."

"They're way ahead of where I was at their age," recalled A. Shah, Esq. "When I was their age (in high school), I could hardly speak - and you make presentations as an attorney. I had to work at it."

"The word, spoken and written, is like food to me," added Durden. "As a communication professional, I watch and listen to how and what they present."

The "LTCF 15" now prepares for the Nov. 22 main competition, starting with selecting to speak on one of the following first round five-minute questions:
* Do you support the One Newark Plan? Why or Why Not?
* How should the U.S. handle infectious disease issues like Ebola and enterovirus?
* Should the government legislate your food and drink choices?
* How could schools better protect students from concussions playing football and other sports?

The final six contestants will then speak two minutes on the following question: Is extending school hours the answer to improving education for students?
Judges reserve the right to add an extra question in case of a tie - as was used in last year's finals.

The main or final competition is to start at 11 a.m. Nov. 22 and run until 3 p.m. Bella Italia is at 535 Central Ave., in the Orange Valley, two blocks west of Scotland Road. Call (973) 678-2582 for details.- See more at: