‘Voice Of Democracy’

JHS?Senior To Represent State In Washington, D.C.

Sophia Isabella, Jamestown High School senior, will represent New York state in Washington, D.C. for a public speaking competition. Through the VFW, students from Barbi Price’s public speaking class submitted audio files of their speech tailored around the topic “Why My Vote Matters.” Isabella and Josh McEntire, another JHS senior, were the top two finalists in the VFW's “Voice of Democracy” contest. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

Just before Christmas, Jamestown High School senior Sophia Isabella received a surprising gift. She learned her submission to the VFW’s “Voice of Democracy” contest had earned her the No. 1 spot in New York state and that she would be traveling to Washington, D.C. to compete nationally for a $30,000 scholarship.

The public speaking competition was tailored around the topic of “Why My Vote Matters.” Isabella and Josh McEntire were selected in November to represent the county with their audio submissions of their speech. The projects were written and recorded in association with JHS teacher Barbi Price’s public speaking class. The audio was recorded in the JHS’s radio lab.

Isabella told The Post-Journal she didn’t know her submission had advanced for state consideration so when she was told she was the sole representative of the state, she was a little surprised.

“I didn’t know it was going to come back as me winning the state, but it did and it was just really exciting,” Isabella said.

Prior to taking the course, Isabella didn’t have the foresight to know she would succeed at public speaking let alone win a state competition. Isabella said she didn’t have much experience giving presentations or speeches before taking the elective course, but noted that her experience thus far has been enjoyable. At the start, she said she was nervous to speak in front of her class, but now the task is fun as she has become more comfortable with it.

“Of course, we are just as pleased as punch and so proud. It’s so gratifying to see their hard work pay off, to come to fruition,” Price said. “When we say Jamestown High School is a school of champions, by golly it’s not just sports, it’s in speaking and oratory.”

Price said public speaking education in the high school is a universally supportive endeavor among classmates. When Price asked the class if they were surprised Isabella won, the resounding answer was no.

“She just had a good voice,” one fellow student said.

Price said her students at the beginning of her Jamestown Community College- accredited course weren’t great a speaking in front of the class, but now they’re critiquing others in everyday life on accident.

Isabella and Price will travel to D.C. and stay from March 2 to March 6. Isabella will have the opportunity to visit several national monuments

“I’m really excited because I’ve never been to Washington, D.C., and just having that experience to go and meeting people from all over the country that are competing as well, I think is going to be a good experience,” Isabella said.

While the first leg of the competition was submitted in a digital audio format, her submission in Washington, D.C. will be in front of judges, the VFW and her other national competitors.

“I’ll be prepared,” she said.

If she wins, the $30,000 scholarship will be put toward her future college tuition. Isabella is eyeing the State University of New York at Fredonia as her college destination for music education and possibly a minor in broadcasting.

“I think this competition helped me just really realize how important voting is and it really has developed my speaking ability and my confidence not only in the class but in a day-to-day life,” she said.

Isabella’s take on the “Why My Vote Matters” speech focused on the perception of the American voting system as it’s viewed by immigrants. Isabella’s grandparents on both sides of her family were immigrants and with that perspective is how she formed her take on voting.

“They worked really hard and did their best, but the right to vote really helped them have their American dreams come true,” she said.

The speech emphasizes the privilege citizens have by being able to express their right to vote – an opportunity that is not guaranteed in other parts of the world.

Isabella said the impact of the competition has gone beyond the scope of her speech.

“I think I’m just very fortunate and lucky to be able to win the state and having the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C,” she said.

While Isabella will be representing the state, her speech will be arguing the importance of the vote and how it represents every American.