American Legion Post 555 offering scholarship opportunities

By BRIANA HARRIS /Staff Writer

PELHAM – Pelham’s American Legion Post 555 is offering area high school students a chance to win thousands of dollars in college scholarships with the 80th annual American Legion Oratorical Program.

The program is open to public, private or homeschooled Pelham students ninth through 12th grade who are under the age of 20, as well as to students in surrounding cities, such as Alabaster and Helena. Students must be U.S. citizens or lawful U.S. residents.

Those who participate in the oratorical contest will have to prepare and present a presentation about the constitution that is eight to 10 minutes in length.   Richard Kaster, Post 555 oratorical program chairman, said students are challenged to find creative storytelling methods to present the constitution.

“We want students to personalize their presentation in a creative way,” Kaster said. “They can talk about different aspects of the constitution and how it was written, but we don’t want them to just regurgitate the information.”

After the prepared speech, students will be asked to give a three to five minute speech on an assigned amendment. For the this speech, the students will know ahead of time which four amendments to study, Kaster said. On the day of the contest, one of the four will be chosen at random.

“They won’t have to know all 27 amendments, and we will give advice to students about how to prepare for their presentations,” Kaster said. “This is an opportunity for students to further develop leadership qualities and public speaking skills.”

Kaster said the program is also important because it helps students get a deeper understanding of the constitution.

The student who wins the oratorical contest at the local level will win $150 and progress to a district contest. The winner of the district contest will move on to the division contest. After that, there’s a state competition and then national finals, which will be in April 2017.

There’s scholarship money available at each level of the contest. The amount of scholarship money awarded at the district and division level competitions vary, but students have a chance to win $1,000 to $3,000 at the state competition. At the national finals, $14,000 to $18,000 is on the table.

A total of $138,000 is awarded to students through the program. Kaster said the American Legion will pay all traveling costs associated with the program.

Those who are interested in participating should contact Kaster at rlkaster@bellsouth.net or 243-0763 by Jan. 5, 2017 to apply.