Starr’s Mill students recite their way to victory


Laura Alldredge

All the participants for Declamation pose for a post-award picture. Nineteen out of the twenty-nine students who participated placed in either the first, second, or third division.

Saijleen Chawla, Staff Writer

On Oct. 21, 29 students met at Sandy Creek High School to embark on the World Language department’s annual fall journey to Clemson University for the 45th annual Declamation Contest. Nineteen students came back with an award for their hard work, and all 29 came back with an unforgettable experience.

“I was reluctant at first, but I grew to love the experience,” freshman Caroline Owusu said

Nineteen of the students placed within the top three in their division. The awards include:

Freshman – Grace Forsberg – American Sign Language – 1st place   

Sophomore – Rommy Sierra – French 2 – 1st place

Sophomore – Biankah Destin – French 2 – 2nd place

Freshman – Emily Hawkins – German 2 – 1st place

Freshman – Jacob Thompson – Spanish 1 – 2nd place

Freshman – Andrew Cole – Spanish 1 – 3rd place

Sophomore – Neil Basu – Spanish 2 – 1st place

Freshman – Anabella Ellis – Spanish 2 – 2nd place

Freshman – Noah Ellis – Spanish 2 – 3rd place

Sophomore- Caroline Carle – Spanish 3 – 1st place

Junior – Saijleen Chawla – Spanish 3 – 1st place

Junior- Ava Harris – Spanish 3 – 1st place

Sophomore – Virginia Jackson – Spanish 3 – 1st place

Junior – Erin Pham – Spanish 3 – 1st place

Sophomore – Jill Magat – Spanish 3 – 2nd place

Junior – Jacob Just-Buddy – Spanish 4 – 3rd place

During Declamation, the students recited two memorized poems in front of 2-3 judges. Most of the time, these poems are in a foreign language the students are studying. Some students also chose to go to Clemson reciting poems memorized in their native language. For example, sophomore Anna Ash participated in the Russian division for native speakers.

Saijleen Chawla
A student joins the Declamation breakfast party in Spanish teacher Shayne Thompson’s classroom. These students left for Clemson University at 5:45 a.m. in the morning to recite their poems.

Ash was the first person to place in Native Russian in Starr’s Mill High School history.  “It was my second time going, but was my first time winning,” Ash said. She placed 2nd in Native Russian Division.

This was freshman Jacob Thompson’s first time participating, and he placed 2nd in the Spanish 1 Division. “Initially I practiced four times a day, and as I understood it better, I practiced less often but I never stopped rehearsing completely,” Thompson said.

Many students credit their teachers for allowing them to achieve their best. Though every student that Spanish teacher Marcela Sample rehearsed with has received first place at Declamation, she disagrees. “All I did was guide them in the right direction and they did the rest,” Sample said.  

The students were not only able to earn an award for their hard work. They also were given a chance to face and overcome a universal fear: public speaking.

“Going up to the judges and saying my poem was pretty nerve wracking,” Thompson said.

Spanish teacher Amber Boyd was especially proud of her students who had the courage to try something new like Clemson.

“I’m proud of my students who are timid in class yet still volunteered to try something like Declamation,” Boyd said.

For returning Declamation participants and new participants alike, the results were the same: a rewarding experience as a recompense for the long bus drive and the early morning start. “I learned how good it felt walking out of there, and knowing that I did the best I could,”  Owusu said. The students returned from Clemson University already making plans for next year.

“I can’t wait for next year’s [Declamation],”  freshman Emily Hawkins said.