Olivia Berman, a senior at Dunn School, took home first-place honors — and the $250 that came with it — in the third annual Speech Trek contest coordinated by the Lompoc-Vandenberg branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
This year’s competition was held Jan. 31 at Lompoc City Hall. High school students from the mid-Santa Barbara County area were invited to participate by delivering speeches in the local contest with a chance to move on to the statewide competition.
The topic for this year’s contest, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Constitutional Amendment, was: “Are men and women truly equal today, or are the suffragettes of 1920 still suffering in 2020?”
The topic inspired thought-provoking original speeches delivered by the seven participating students, according to an AAUW spokeswoman.
Along with Berman, participants included Yazmin Avalos, Edgar Ortiz, and Victoria Carrillo, all students of Carolyn Taylor at Lompoc High School; Victoria (Tori) Gordon and Joseph Conrad Diaz, both from Cabrillo High School; and Isabella (Bella) Kennedy, a Future Business Leaders of America student of Rebecca Inghram at Maple High School.
Avalos was awarded second place and $150, while Ortiz was awarded third place and $100.
Speeches were presented to a standing-room-only crowd, and a panel of community leaders who served as judges.
Judges included Aaron Crocker, a co-owner of Lompoc’s Grocery Outlet; Robin Ghormley, chief of public affairs for the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base; Claudia Ortiz, youth development director of the Lompoc Family YMCA; Dr. Lynne Portnoy, visiting internal medicine physician at Lompoc Health; Jim Throop, Lompoc city manager; and alternate judge Ben Walters, a production controller at VAFB.
Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne, an AAUW member, presented certificates of participation and the cash awards to the top three finalists.
CoastHills Credit Union, The Bookstore and Lompoc Foursquare Church were Gold Sponsors for the 2020 Speech Trek contest, according to the AAUW.
Additional financial support for the contest and student workshops was received from AAUW members and community donations, along with multiple fundraisers.
Among the community supporters were volunteer Sonia Sandoval, retired Lompoc High teacher Mike Phillips, and Mayra Ramos, who served as contest moderator. Additionally, Karla Paniagua (2019 contest winner) and Erin McCallon (2018 winner) volunteered their services to assist with this year’s contest.
AAUW and the community volunteers offered no-cost mentoring and workshops to students who wished to participate. Educators Taylor, from Lompoc High, and Inghram, from Maple High, provided encouragement, time and inspiration to their students, according to the AAUW.
The video of Berman’s speech will be uploaded to YouTube and be submitted to the California AAUW for the state semifinalist round, according to the AAUW.
Videos of all the first-place AAUW branch winners throughout California will be reviewed by a state level panel of judges to determine the top three who will travel to San Francisco to deliver their speeches at the April 2020 AAUW Annual Meeting and Convention.
At that convention, first placement will receive $1,500, second placement $1,000 and third placement $500.
Fourth and fifth placements at the state level will receive certificates and awards by mail: $250 and $150, respectively.