Masters of words: Wolff advances to national competition

Published 11:19 am Thursday, March 9, 2023

By Emily Bureleigh

Vernon Parish student Hailey Wolff will be representing Louisiana on a national stage at the American Legion Oratorical Contest National Finals this spring.

Wolff is a 10th-grader at Hicks High School. According to Principal Jennifer Wilbanks, Wolff is an exceptional and industrious student. “She works hard and is determined to succeed in all things that she participates in,” Wilbanks said. “We knew that she had the potential to excel and expected nothing less than for her to win.”

The American Legion Oratorical Contest, dating back to 1938, aims to arm Southwest Louisiana youth with constitutional knowledge by deepening their understanding of American ideals through oration. At the contest, students speak on hefty topics relating to the constitution and United States politics.

Wolff won at the school district level in Vernon Parish, regional level in Alexandria and state level in Lafayette to qualify for the national competition. At each of these levels, Wolff prepared an eight-to-10 minute speech on the U.S. Constitution. After her prepared oration, she also gave a three-to -five minute impromptu speech on a randomly assigned topic.

This will be the format of the National Finals, as well.

At the Louisiana American Legion Oratorical competition, Wolff won a $1,000 scholarship. At nationals, she will compete alongside 49 other students for a $25,000 scholarship.

“We are incredibly proud of her and cannot think of anyone better to represent our state,” Wilbanks said.

Connie Britt, Vernon Parish School Board High School curriculum supervisor, said she found herself in awe of Wolff’s ability to confidently orate without lapses in memory.

“I heard her speech during the district competition, and it was amazing that she was able to remember everything that she wanted to say,” she said. “Eight to 10 minutes is a long time when facing a panel of judges and having no peppers to which to refer … even more amazon, this student is in the 10th grade.”

Wolff’s success not only honors her school, but her entire region, as well — she will be nationally representing a community that is built around military service, Britt said.

“Hailey’s winning is especially gratifying as we have Fort Polk located in the heart of our parish, and we see our soldiers every day. To have one of our own students verbalize the importance of the Constitution that our soldiers uphold makes her win even more special for us. We will continue to expect great things from Hailey,” she continued.

The 2023 National Finals will be held April 21 through 23 in Indianapolis, Ind. All expenses are covered by the Louisiana American Legion.