Strong oratorical skills are critical for students at all grade levels. The George Washington Carver Oratorical Workshop and Competition encourages middle and high school students in the underserved Black Belt counties of Alabama and strengthens their public speaking skills. In keeping with the established youth outcomes for Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension, this event requires them to read cases, research articles, write and then verbally express their positions with regard to the beliefs and/or quotes of George Washington Carver. In so doing, they become more aware of, and improve their stewardship and sustainability of knowledge relative to agriculture and agriculture-related concerns. In addition to the traditional public speaking pointers, this event fosters an open dialogue concerning the challenges faced by their local communities, the state and the nation. By engaging in these dialogues, we increase the number of youth who demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the area of food systems, which was at the heart of many of Dr. Carver’s concerns. The participants have the opportunity to build not only their communication skills, but also their leadership skills that encompass listening, thinking and speaking through experiential means.
On Friday, January 27, 2023, the workshop/competition culminated with the George Washington Carver Society Luncheon which lauds Carver’s accomplishments and recognizes the participants’ efforts. The workshop competition was conducted by Janet Sullen and sponsored by the Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program Youth Development Initiative. While over 60 students in grades 6-12 attended the workshop, nine competitors developed speeches on the Carver quote, “"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."
There were 4 competitors in Division I (grades 6-8): Camille Hoffman, Tuskegee 4-H Club, Tuskegee, AL, Jose Garcia Barrios, Montgomery Public Home School, Montgomery, AL; Barbryanna Kitt, Tuskegee Institute Middle School, Tuskegee, AL; and Kaytlinn Calhoun, Tuskegee Public School, Tuskegee, AL. There were 5 competitors in Division II (grades 9-12): Zaylen Burke, Central High School, Hayneville, AL: Ja’Kiya Pickens, Booker T. Washington High School, Tuskegee, AL; Denise Oliver, Loachapoka High School, Loachapoka, AL; JaFavor Collins, New Beginnings Christian Academy, Montgomery, AL; and DonQuaviion Bourne, Bullock County High School. Union Springs, AL.
The winners from Division I were Kaytlinn Calhoun (first place), Camille Hoffman (second place and from Division II were Ja’Kiya Pickens (first place, Zaylen Burke (second place). The first-place winners from both divisions presented their speeches at the induction luncheon which followed the workshop in the Tompkins Hall Student Union Ballroom.