BRIGHT FUTURE: Teens compete, awarded for orationPublished 12:07am Thursday, July 26, 2012
NATCHEZ — Tyrondra Lewis and Damira McGruder found their stage presence this summer despite the jitters.
The girls competed and placed in the General Missionary Baptist State Oratorical Contest on July 17, representing the A.M.B. Association of Adams County.
The competition was split into three different groups according to age. Lewis, 17, won first in the 16 to 18 category and McGruder, 11, won third in the 10 to 12 category.
The topic for the competition was “Building a Solid Life with the Savior,” 1 Corinthians 3:9.
“I thought I couldn’t speak in front of crowds. I wanted to cry at first,” Lewis said.
Lewis said fellow competitors tried to put negative thoughts in her head before the competition, but she didn’t let that stop her.
Contestants were judged on hand gestures, timing, memorization, being able to stay on topic, and volume, the girls said.
McGruder and Lewis said they were most worried about timing because they were only allowed two minutes to speak. When practicing, to avoid going over the allowed two minutes, they would rush through their speeches, but said their parents kept reminding them to slow down, which paid off in the end.
In preparation for the state convention, both girls performed their speeches during a contest at Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Natchez. In the audience was Interim Department Chair of Mass Communication at Alcorn State University Jerry Domatob and the late Dr. Pam Felder.
Domatob and Felder gave the girls feedback in order to come out on top at the state convention.
In addition to help from the professionals, the girls said they also helped each other.
Lewis said they traded speeches, seeing what each other should work on. She said even though McGruder was younger than her, she still takes advice from her.
“She’s like a little sister,” Lewis said.
Lewis and McGruder said they were just happy being a part of this experience, but winning made it even better.
The girls said before the competition they prayed that they would come back with something for their church, even if it were just a certificate for participating in the contest.
McGruder said she was shooting for first place but knew she might not get it. In the end, she was happy with her placing and plans to compete every year.
“I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to get mad. At least I placed,” McGruder said.
The Rev. Melvin White of Pilgrim was thrilled that two of his church members were winners in this event.
White said he along with the church was excited and proud of the work in effort these girls put in for their church. White said he plans to attend this competition from now on and hopes to have more participation.
“In the end, God got the glory,” said White.
At Pilgrim, the girls are in the youth choir, the praise dance ministry, Sunday church school and have performed in several plays.
Lewis is a senior at Natchez High School, and McGruder is a sixth grader at Morgantown Middle School.
Lewis plans to attend The University of Southern Mississippi upon graduation, studying Pediatric Nursing.
McGruder said she has also been planning her future and also wants to attend USM, followed by Harvard University, one day becoming an obstetrician.
McGruder is the daughter of Dr. Terri McGruder and Ricky McGruder, and Lewis is the daughter of Veronica, Grant and Ernestine Green and Mr. and Mrs. Amos James Jr.