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Christensen wins leadership speech contest
Top 3 winners
Micah Christensen, center, a senior at South Effingham High School, won the Gulfstream Management Association Leadership High School Speech Contest. At left is David Smith of Bluffton (S.C.) High School, the third place winner, and right is Marcus Barnes of Johnson High, the second place winner. Christensen will attend West Point. - photo by Photo provided

Micah Christensen, a senior at South Effingham High School, recently won the local “Leadership” High School Speech Contest sponsored by the Gulfstream Management Association (GMA).

Christensen earned $300 for his efforts in the GMA contest on Feb. 5 at Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU). It was the first step toward competing for a $4,000 prize in a nationwide contest sponsored by the National Management Association (NMA), the world’s largest leadership and professional development association.

The local competition was open to all students from high schools in the Coastal Empire of Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Marcus Barnes, a senior at Johnson High School in Savannah, finished second, earning $200. Third place and a $100 award went to David Smith, a senior from Bluffton (S.C.) High School.

Other competitors were: Eric Heyward, a junior from Groves High School; Leanna Laycock, a sophomore from the Savannah Arts Academy; Mark Taylor, a sophomore from Richmond Hill in the Family Education Home School program; Nicholas Western, a freshman from Battery Creek High School in Beaufort (S.C.); Crystal Carter, a senior from Southeast Bulloch High School in Brooklet; Alexis Williams, a sophomore from Savannah High School; and Lauren Meredith, a senior at Jenkins High School in Savannah.

The purpose of the nationwide NMA contest is to promote a better understanding of leadership among high school students. Each student is required to research, write and present a 4- to 6-minute speech focusing on the qualities and attributes of leadership. The contest also provides an incentive for the development of communication skills that are vital to the students when they enter the work force.

Christensen’s speech focused on “whether leaders are born or made.”  He examined four elements of leadership:  character, influence, experience and performance. Christensen cited several examples that demonstrated these elements and how they have inspired him toward his goal of attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Judging for the contest was done by a panel of communication professionals: Dr. Betsy Hoit-Thetford, adjunct professor at AASU and South University in Savannah; Craig Beck, sales trainer for Daley Real Estate in Savannah and member of Toastmasters Club 9884; Bill Edwards, radio personality at 1290 AM; Wayne Fulks, adjunct professor at South University; Yaqina Raheem, instructor at Savannah State University;  and Beth McLaughlin, director of marketing at Cora Bett Thomas Realty. Emcee for the contest was Gulfstream’s senior manager of social media and external communications, Heidi Fedak.

GMA will sponsor Christensen as he advances in the competition. In Aiken, S.C., in April, he will compete for a $500 prize against students sponsored by other chapters of the NMA Peach Council from Georgia and South Carolina. The winner of the NMA Peach Council contest will participate in the regional competition in early June back in Savannah, where a $1,000 prize will be at stake.

This year in St. Louis, as part of NMA’s annual conference in September, four regional winners will vie for the top award — $4,000 in cash.