Female students dominated this year’s Customers First Associates (CFA) Speech Competition at the Foster B. Pestaina Auditorium on Tuesday, October 2.
Three outstanding high school females, each seasoned speech competitor in their own rights, came away with top honours.
Carissa Edgecombe of Sunland Baptist Academy; Dasean Hield of Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy and Keturah Clarke of Eight Mile Rock High School placed first, second and third respectively, in CFA’s Tenth Annual High School Speech Competition.
This daily had the opportunity to interview the top three winners following the competition. Overall winner, Edgecombe, said, “It is a great feeling that I was able to place first among five contestants. The judges felt that I was the best overall, however, all of us are leaders and great speakers.
“The topic for this year’s speech competition was, ‘Leadership is a product of one’s DNA and not a skill that can be developed.’ Do you agree or disagree?
“I disagreed with the statement. I feel that leadership can be developed, for example there are some individuals who had many deficiencies, such as Les Brown. He was labeled as mentally retarded; however, he is now one of the top motivational speakers in the world. Then, there is Sir Richard Branson, the fourth richest man in the United Kingdom, controlling over 400 countries, who fought with dyslexia; therefore, they had skills that had to be developed in order for them to be such great leaders. I took that path with my speech.”
Edgecombe shared that on being named the overall winner of the competition, the judges shared with her that although her contribution to the competition was a speech; her delivery was in the form of a conversation, which made them more comfortable with her presentation and overall performance.
Questioned if this was her first time entering a speech competition, Edgecombe, who also serves as Head Girl of her school answered, “No, I love public speaking. I have been entering public speaking competitions since Grade 10. My first competition was the National Debate, where I was able to advance to Nassau. I also participated in Junior Achievement Speech Competitions, local debates and I also participated in the most prestigious debate, the Model Unite Nations Debate in Nassau.”
Second place winner, Hield, noted, “It is a pretty good feeling to have won second place. I worked really hard on my speech and when I heard that the topic was about leadership, I was very excited because those where skills that I had to develop. They were not products of my DNA, therefore, I disagreed with the topic. Overall, I feel very good that I placed second; everyone did a good job, and I would like to commend them.”
She added that this was not her first time participating in a speech competition, as she is a three-time national speech competition winner.
“I have been participating for about two years now and this is just another one to add to my collection.
Clarke, third place winner of the competition and Head Girl of EMRHS expressed, “Actually the competition was very tough, considering the circumstances. I did fumble a bit, but I was able to persevere and keep going with my speech and that is what got me to third place. I live and I learn, so I know that more practice will ensure better progress.”
Clarke also holds the post of Junior Minister of Tourism for Grand Bahama and the Junior Director of Tourism for The Bahamas.
“I entered a speech competition in March and I won first place in Grand Bahama and second place in Nassau. I also entered the West Grand Bahama District Speech Competition in which I placed second. This is my fourth speech competition.”
District Superintendent of Education, East Grand Bahama and the Cays Yvonne Ward, who was in attendance shared her thoughts on the presentations by the students. “This was an excellent forum. The topic is a very timely one, because we need to develop our young people to become our leaders of tomorrow. Customer service and the overall quality of service that we give a lot of times in our companies, in our schools, wherever depends on the quality of the leader and that is what we are finding.
“If the leaders are not excellent then of course, the level of service that we give, sometimes is not excellent. And so, it was good that they had to do the research and they came up with examples of good leaders, who they could emulate and who they can develop from.
“What was very interesting was that all of the students that participated said that leadership is not in one’s DNA, but that it can be developed. That was good and inspiring because it suggests that one can become the great leader by developing their skills. That was interesting to note that all of them chose that way to go in terms of the speech competition.
“At the Ministry of Education, we are always so very pleased that they use our students to participate in this competition. As I stated earlier, they are the future leaders of our country. This was very good; I enjoyed the presentations,” concluded Ward.
CFA’s President Angela Gibson, expressed that hosting the competition annually is near and dear to her heart and is something that she will definitely continue.
“We are all about building quality customer service in The Bahamas. Indeed, we see that customer service is at a low end in Grand Bahama. Today, we are looking at national issues with the topic, ‘Leadership is a product of one’s DNA and not a skill that can be developed. Do you agree or disagree?’ We had all of the students telling us about leadership criteria qualities – which are nurturing, positive impacts and perseverance, being resilient, listening, communication and having integrity. All of these qualities build a leader inside out.
“People today are looking for leaders so that they can lead them in the right direction, in building communities, in building schools, building better homes within our society,” said Gibson.
“The winner of this year’s competition (Carissa Edgecombe) of Sunland Baptist Academy was so dynamic. She will become the next prime minister of The Bahamas. She has indicated that leadership skills are a building process, requiring step-by-step strategic planning.”
As CFA celebrates its 10th year, Gibson assured that the event will continue due to the fact that she has such a strong passion for impeccable customer service.
“Everywhere we go, we want to see employees welcoming the customers, into the company, into the organizations and into the stores. We want to see those smiles, because when smiling you are welcoming that customer. We want to see you listening to what they are saying and also looking at the body language, which also tells you that they understand what you are saying to them.
“This is where we are looking at developing those excellent customer service and leadership skills. We need that in our country because we have serious national issues that need to be addressed and one of them is customer service delivery.”
Other participating schools in this year’s competition included, Bishop Michael Eldon School and St. Paul’s Methodist College.