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Local students sweep top honors at Rotary contest
0427 rotary speech winners
Hannah Boyd, Andrew Rushing and Natalie Starling swept the top honors at the Rotary District Speech Contest. Boyd, second from left, came in third place, Rushing, center, won first place, and Starling, second from right, received second place. - photo by Photo provided

Instead of getting ready for prom like most Effingham County teens were doing last Saturday, four high school students from the area spent their morning at the Coastal Zone Division of the Rotary Speech Contest.

Early last March, Effingham County High and South Effingham High each sent three students to compete at the local level of the contest. After all of the competitors presented their speech, the local Effingham Rotarians recognized the top four students with the highest overall scores which qualified them to participate at the zone level.

Donald Quinones, Andrew Rushing,and Natalie Starling from South Effingham High School ,along with Hannah Boyd from Effingham County High School, went to the Bulloch County Board of Education Office last Saturday to present their speeches to four judges. There were 13 students there from locations ranging from near Macon to Brunswick. All contestants qualified at their local Rotary chapter contest in order to participate, and all competed in hopes of winning the $1,000 scholarship which accompanies the first place trophy.

Despite the wide range of competitors from all around Georgia, Effingham County ended up taking home all of the honors. Effingham County High junior Hannah Boyd received the third place trophy; South Effingham High junior Natalie Starling placed second, and South Effingham High senior Andrew Rushing took home the first place trophy. He will go on to present his speech on May 19 at the Rotary District Conference in Savannah where he will receive the $1,000 scholarship.

"It was a real honor to win the speech contest against such outstanding competition," Rushing said. "Winning the competition was very important to me. It gives me confidence as I plan to continue my academic career at Georgia Tech. The prize money will definitely help with college expenses."

"It showcases our county’s emphasis on seeing its students succeed," Boyd said of all the finalists being from Effingham County. "Our community does an amazing job supporting the education system and the students in general. It’s with that encouragement and support that we stay motivated to do well in competitions such as this."