Speeches give ‘time to shine’

The 12th annual Kaua‘i Complex Area Multicultural Speech Festival was held for the first time at the War Memorial Convention Hall yesterday for the intermediate, middle and high schools.

“The change (in venue) allowed for more students and parents to attend,” said Ligaya Ortal, English Second Language Learner District Resource teacher.

“It’s such a special occasion for the kids,” said Sandra Haynes, Kaua‘i district literacy resource teacher and facilitator for the festival. “It’s a time for them to really shine.”

Haynes said it took a lot of preparation on the part of the participants, which was good for them. Students don’t often have the opportunity to prepare for a speech festival where they go through the experience of learning something, memorizing it, working on it, perfecting their craft and presenting to an audience.

“Naturally, they are scared,” Haynes said, but she felt the groups and the audience were supportive so everyone would come away with a positive experience.

“It’s amazing, what they are able to do,” Haynes said.

Sarwat Murtaza from Pakistan and Gavorg Aghajanyan from Armenia gave Powerpoint presentations.

Murtaza is a Youth Exchange and Study student staying with Joanne Watanabe of Kekaha. Her Powerpoint presentation showed the geography, education, land and people of Pakistan.

“I want people to know how we live, so they have an image of that part of the world,” Murtaza said.

Murtaza said that in Pakistan, 98 percent of the people are Muslim, so they don’t have to worry about food and clothing. When she came to Kaua‘i, it was different. There were many “Hawaiians” and “Christians.”

“It was difficult to adjust, but it was not impossible,” she said.

Murtaza said she started to learn English in Pakistan in her kindergarten class, and only spoke it in school. She has enjoyed her year here and has experienced a lot of things.

Murtaza served as a student mistress of ceremonies, along with fellow Waimea High School students Jerica Niau-Kanahele and Ailene Baclig.

Baclig’s native language is Ilocano and Tagalog. She said she felt prepared for her role as emcee, having participated in four previous speech festivals.

“There are still nervous parts, but on the other hand, I’m thinking I’ve been through a lot of things,” Baclig said.

She said this is her senior year, so she has to enjoy it.

Niau-Kanahele said she practiced a lot, going over the script prepared by her teachers Lu Koerte and Jasmin Camara.

“They picked me because I’m loud,” Niau-Kanahele said. Her native language is Hawaiian.

Kaua‘i High School had students entered in each of the three individual categories — storytelling, poetry and original oratory.

Ashley Difontorum, a ninth-grader, said it was difficult memorizing her story, “The King’s Diamond Cross.” She said she still has trouble pronouncing “astonished,” placing the accent on the first syllable rather than the second.

Chihiro Saito, a Rotary exchange student from Japan, said her original oratory was about what it is like to live in a foreign country.

She said she has learned how important her family is. She has not seen her family for nine months.

“Sometimes I miss my family,” Saito said. “I learned how much they help me.”

She wrote the original speech in English. She said she didn’t use difficult words.

Jennifer Olsen is the English Language Learner teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She said for the choral reading, she chose a song for its lyrics and began by teaching her students to sing the song.

“It was really fun and a great way to learn,” Olsen said.

Even the students with limited English skills learned quickly.

The students then transferred the learning into recitation. In previous years, Olsen found it difficult to teach students to recite a poem with rhythm. They tended to recite in a monotone. This time, they paused in the right spots and had more expression.

“You can hear the melody in the poem,” Olsen said.

Sixth-grader John Avadanei came from Romania a year and a half ago. He said he liked participating in the speech festival where “people are looking.”

Eighth-grader Koktin Lim from Malaysia said he was nervous. He had to teach his fellow students how to do the introduction to their presentation in his language. He said his peers were “pretty good.”

CKMS did their introduction in English, Chinese, Ilocano, Tagalog and Marshallese, as well as the Malay or Malaysian language.

Each performance was judged by a panel comprised of members from the Kaua‘i Complex Area District team.

“It’s a celebration more than a competition,” said Barbara Baker, school renewal specialist and a judge for the festival.

Each judge receives a rating sheet and records comments that are shared with the respective schools.

In addition to the speech events, each school offers a cultural presentation. Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha presented an traditional chant in the oli style and then in a modern singing style. The modern version of “Kui ka pono” was composed by a graduate of the school.

“They’re good at it,” said Principal Haunani Seward. “They only needed a day to practice.”

Kaua‘i High School’s presentation was a hip hop dance to “Average Joe” by Hazel Quintalla, Gina Butac and Ashley Difontorum. The girls met after school to choreograph and rehearse their dance.

Quintalla said she used to dance in the Philippines. The girls participated in talent shows in the Philippines and at Kaua‘i High School.

“We’re born to be dancers,” Quintalla said.

Sagucio said she went to their homes after school to check on their progress, as she did with the students and their speech preparations.

Complex Area Superintendent Daniel Hamada announced that Milagros Sagucio from Kapa‘a Elementary School and Edita Dulaga from ‘Ele‘ele Elementary School are the year’s ELL teacher and part time teacher of the year, respectively.

“Competition was stiff because we are blessed to have many dedicated people here on our island working in our schools,” Hamada said.

The two will be formally recognized tomorrow, when the elementary schools meet at the Convention Hall for their segment of the speech festival.

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