Eileen Shafer, an experienced public speaking competitor, took first place at Sunday's 4-H/FFA Public Speaking Contest at the University of Missouri Extension in Cole County.
"I'm very excited," she said. "It was nice to speak with some good healthy competition."
She's graduated from high school, and this is her last year with 4-H. She's taking an online course to certify her as a therapeutic musician.
She said she'll be "making very good use of the public speaking skills I've gained through 4-H."
She drew three topics and picked one: "The most rewarding feeling that I have gained from being involved in the 4-H program is ."
She said the most rewarding feeling is "success."
"No less than success in everything I have done in 4-H," she said in her speech. "Be it the little things, be it a state contest or even a national contest, or even just meeting a new friend, making them smile."
Taylor Riley took second place, and Gretta Carrender was third. All three competed in extemporaneous speaking, and all qualified for the state competition in September.
The event is part of the Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair.
Local state representatives Dave Griffith and Rudy Veit judged the competition.
Veit complemented the three speakers on engaging the audience through their facial expressions and walking around the room. "I thought you all did a wonderful job," he said.
Griffith urged them to use their 15 minutes of preparation time wisely to write down two or three main points on a note card.
"If you ever go into politics, and I recommend that you do, when they ask you what your platform is you want to have three points on your platform because that can give you something when you're knocking on doors talking to people," he said.
Public speaking, he said, is an art that takes time to develop. He told the youths when he competed in public speaking as a youth, he practiced in front of a mirror.
He commended the three, saying he was proud of them for competing in the competition.
Event Superintendent Tim Riley said less than seven years ago, the competition had about 20 speakers.
He said schools don't teach 4-H as they once did, and they need to spread the word about the program to draw in younger 4-H members.
Veit and Griffith agreed to the importance of public speaking.
"You have to be able to get up in front of people, deal with people and make presentations," Veit said. "Any leadership role requires getting up in front of people."
Both state representatives said they still face some anxiety about public speaking, but they said preparation is key to confidence and success.