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The focus was on the family for half of the speeches recently given by 4th and 5th graders at Williston Elementary School, and those three all won! Though it proved a challenging job, it was a fun experience for judges Annette Kordgien and Naomi Petteway, who enjoyed listening to the six contestants - Mackenzie Goode, Mallory Jones, Kaylee Nicholson, Cammeron Smith, Branden Spillane and Martha Ann Wilson - who were voted as the top speakers from the earlier grade level competitions. Kordgien, postmaster at Cedar Key and a past leader of various organizations, has judged before. Petteway, a retired math teacher, fills leadership positions in her local church.
In the end, though, Mackenzie's humorous lament of "Dealing with a Pregnant Mom" took the cake as she placed first; followed by Branden Spillane, sharing about his "Instant Family," and Kaylee Nicholson, singing the praises of her "Number One Dad."
Branden placed second last year in the school-wide competition.
Mallory Jones's clever title, "To Be a Fly on the Wall," piqued the listeners' curiosity. Mallory is a 5th grader in Tonya Townsend's class. In Jeanne DuBois's 5th grade class, Cammeron Smith, who snagged first place in the 2006 competition, talked about the internet. And certainly the older elementary student could understand the "Drama at School" which Martha Ann Wilson related. Martha Ann is in Tina Roberts's and Joelene Vining's classes.
"There are lots of reasons that she [her mother, Jennifer Jones] bugs me because of her pregnancy," said Mackenzie with a chuckle. "She treats me as her slave...right when it's time for me to go to bed, she needs water. She complains about gaining weight, but - after all - she is pregnant!" Was "Mom" Jennifer upset with Mackenzie? "Only that I told every one about her visits to McDonald's and all the Big Macs she was eating." Jones helped Mackenzie "tweak" her speech.
Mackenzie's teacher, Nancy Bowman, added that from the first presentation in class to the winning presentation school-wide, her speech was "warm and winning... skillfully organized as well as entertaining." It was obvious to Bowman that Mackenzie enjoyed delivering her speech. "Our class will support, with pride, Mackenzie in the district contest."
Branden Spillane went from being "the apple of his parents' eye" to "one of the bunch" as they decided over the summer to take in two foster children, three year old Luke and 18 month old Elana. His "instant family" changed life as he'd known it, so he thought it would be a good idea to share what it was like to be a big brother after being the only child for 10 years. "I have to share my toys," said Branden, a 5th grader in Tracy Kirby's class. He can be in the middle of doing something, and he has to "stop and help Luke." What does he help him do? "Teach him his ABCs, read flash cards to him...numbers and words." With Elana he works with her on her speech, introducing new words to her vocabulary. Parents Patrick and Kim are proud of their older son, and it would be "OK with me" says Branden if they adopt Luke and Elana.
The former Little Miss Williston, Kaylee Nicholson said the first thing she thought of when deciding what her speech would be about was "My Number One Dad," Daniel Emmett Whitehurst III (Emmett), her step-father. "Even though he didn't have to, he treated me as his own...he calls me his daughter." Other reasons she thinks he's tops? "He always provides for me. He always keeps his word. I can always count on him," said Kaylee. "I wish everyone was as lucky as I am" to have a dad like Emmett. Was she nervous? "I had to answer questions when I was in the Little Miss Williston contest in 2002, and I'm in dance recitals," said Kaylee. Her mom, Billy Jo, and her "Aunt Jana" [Carlisle] helped her some by listening and keeping her within the time constraints. Kaylee is also in Roberts's and Vining's classes.
For the past few years, Carol Glass, WES curriculum coordinator, has organized the school-wide contest. The GFWC Williston Woman's Club again provided monetary prizes for the top six winners. Tropicana and 4-H, both long-time supporters of this worthwhile event, sponsor the county-level event.