About the contest
Manatee County students in grades six through 12 were eligible to compete in the annual Farm City Week Manatee River Soil and Water Conservation District (MRSWCD) speech contest on November 13th. Designed to develop leadership through participation in public speaking activities and to stimulate interest in conserving our natural resources, the topic selected by the National Association of Conservation Districts this year is “May the Forest Be With You Always”.
Students submitted written transcripts of their speech and then shared information with the audience in 5-7 minute speeches.
Emma Hakes, a home-schooled 7th grade student taught by her mother Soon Sim Hakes, won the competition which qualifies her to compete in an Association of Florida Conservation Districts area contest to be held in 2024. Hakes, a 4-H member, was awarded a check for $250 by the MRSWCD for her first place finish. Hakes also won a ribbon for placing first among middle school students.
Placing second and awarded $200 was Parrish Community High School FFA student Ashley McIlwaine, taught by Caitlyn Greene.
Third place was awarded to Taliyah Moore, a Palmetto High School FFA student taught by Julie Tillett. Moore received $100.
Sophia Gagliano, placed 2nd among middle school students and was awarded a 2nd place ribbon. Her teacher Jessica Jones, of Haile Middle School, won the random drawing for a $50 gift card to purchase educational supplies for her classroom.
Thank you contestants and judges
Hakes and McIlwaine were recognized at the Agricultural Hall of Fame Luncheon in Palmetto during the same week. Their mothers and teachers joined them at the luncheon.
Judges were Jennifer Hoffman, Executive Director of Keep Manatee Beautiful; Richard Larsen, Myakka River District County Forester; and Nelly Nelson, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent with UF/IFAS Extension Service Manatee County. Hoffman provided food related gift cards to all of the contestants.