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Rushing wins CELDA speech competition
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Andrew Rushing

Andrew Rushing, a senior at South Effingham High School, recently won the local "Leadership" High School Speech Contest sponsored by the Coastal Empire Leadership Development Association (CELDA).

Rushing earned $300 for his efforts in the CELDA contest on Feb. 11 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. Katelyn Ryan, a senior at Bluffton High School in South Carolina, finished second earning $200. Third place and a $100 award went to Simeon Bolds, also a senior from Bluffton High School.

Other competitors were Melinda Greene, a senior from the Islands High School in Savannah, and Jamel Richardson, a junior at Sol C. Johnson 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.

Rushing’s speech focused on "leadership being an unending process of discovering the motivations, the fears, and the dreams of those within our sphere of influence." He relayed the story of his cross-country team and their training. After the team finished a distant fifth in a local contest, he asked them if their effort was satisfactory. He reminded them of their effort together and set forth to encourage them to prove themselves.

At the regional competition, they did not have a storybook ending nor qualify for the state finals. However, each teammate ran a season-best time on the most difficult course in the state, therefore they excelled together in improving their physical and mental character.

Judging for the contest was done by a panel of communication professionals and/or Toastmaster International members: Dr. Betsy Hoit-Thetford, adjunct professor at AASU and South University in Savannah; Heidi Fedak, Gulfstream Aerospace senior manager of social media and external communications; Bill Edwards, radio personality at Savannah’s Talk Radio 1290AM; Mike Pope, a process writer at Gulfstream Aerospace; Emra Smith, a speaker, author, trainer, and coach in various marketing and sales enterprises; Monica Jones Oglesby, a warranty specialist at Gulfstream Aerospace; and Kaisa White, director of sales for Image Hotels - Comfort Inn and Suites. Emcee for the contest was Craig Beck, a real estate sales trainer and Toastmaster.

Associate sponsors for the contest were: Baibry’s Coffee & Café on Goshen Rd. in Rincon; Krispy Kreme on Abercorn St. in Savannah; and the Starbucks Co. at Twelve Oaks Shopping Plaza in Savannah.

CELDA will sponsor Rushing as he advances in the competition. On March 31 in Atlanta, he will compete for a $500 prize against students sponsored by other chapters of the NMA Peach Council from Georgia and South Carolina. In late April, the winner of the NMA Peach Council contest will participate in the regional competition in Detroit, Mich., where a $1,000 prize will be at stake.

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