Namita Shyam speaks to attendees at the Scholars & Bench Night at The Oaks Club in Stevenson Ranch. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Winners of speech competition awarded scholarships

The top-three finishers of the seventh annual High School Speech Competition held at Canyon High School last month were honored at the Scholars & Bench Night on Thursday evening at The Oaks Club in Valencia.

Every year, juniors and seniors from the William S. Hart Union High School District compete in a speech competition hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association.

“We do a number of community outreach events, but this is by far our favorite event,” said Jeff Armendariz, the association’s community outreach chair. “You get to see these young people showcasing their talents and it just makes you feel really proud as a resident of the SCV to see the quality of students that are coming through the district.”

This year, 10 juniors gave their opinion regarding affirmative action in the college admissions process, but three stood out from the rest and were successful in winning cash scholarships of $1,000, $750 and $500, respectively.

The winners were recognized at the event, and before their scholarships were presented, each read their speeches for the attorneys and judges in attendance.

Community Outreach Chair Jeff Armendariz speaks to attendees at the Scholars & Bench Night at The Oaks Club in Stevenson Ranch. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Angela Paik, the first-place recipient from Valencia High School, said she spent a lot of time researching so she could really understand the prompt.

“It’s an issue that’s really prevalent in our college process, especially as high school students, so I really wanted to delve deep into it and understand the prompt rather than only going surface level,” Paik said.

“It was a moment of disbelief,” for Canyon High student Leon Cosgrove, who was awarded second place. When asked why his speech stood out, he was certain it was due to his “position of absolutism.”

“When I saw that this competition was going to be held, I thought, ‘I don’t care about the money, I want to make a speech about it,’ so I got on the computer and I wrote so much I had to cut it down by three-fourths,” Cosgrove said.

He called for “no socioeconomic weighting in the slightest,” and said he feels strongly about that opinion.

“If people who go through the whole system in their teens and 20s work exceedingly hard in their middle-aged time so that their children can go to university, they’ll find out they’re penalized because they’re not poor enough,” Cosgrove said.

Hon. Judge Kevin Brazile speaks to attendees at the Scholars & Bench Night at The Oaks Club in Stevenson Ranch. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The third-place recipient from Academy of the Canyons, Namita Shyam, did not have the same opinion.

“I think socioeconomic status is something that should be considered,” Shyam said. “Some people don’t have the money to go places — it’s a really big problem, and I really do think that people from low socioeconomic backgrounds should have access to higher education.”

Shyam considers herself a creative person, so she was very honored to participate in the competition.

“I love expressing my ideas in a creative way, so I love the fact that they’ve given me the opportunity to do so,” Shyam said.

During the event, attendees were served dinner while the students gave their speeches and guest speaker Judge Kevin Brazile, the presiding judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, discussed the state of the county’s courts and what the future will hold.

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