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Rugby High students vie for scholarship money in Constitution oratorical contest

By Sue Sitter - | Nov 28, 2020

Rugby High School guidance counselor Julie Sjol, left, poses with oratorical contest participants Madison Corum, center, and Haley Mayer. Both participants are freshmen. Submitted Photo

Two Rugby High School students will vie in December for a chance to show their knowledge of the United States Constitution in Washington, D.C., and win more than $25,000 in scholarship money from the American Legion.

The path to scholarship money and national recognition starts with locally with the Rugby American Legion Oratorical Contest, originally scheduled on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Because the contest fell under state restrictions suspending high school activities until Dec. 14, the Rugby Clarence Larson American Legion Post #23 postponed the contest until after that date.

Post Commander John Gustafson said he and contest organizers were working to find a date that would work for all parties involved.

Rugby Broadcasters will record the contest to air at a later date on KZZJ AM.

Madison Corum and Haley Mayer, both freshmen at RHS, will compete in this year’s contest. The winner of the local contest will advance to a district-level competition in Leeds, followed by a divisional competition for Eastern North Dakota in Park River and a state competition in Dickinson next year.

The winner of North Dakota’s American Legion Oratorical Contest advances to national competition in Washington, D.C.

Although the Rugby contest winner would likely face tough competition from older students as she advanced to districts and beyond, both contestants indicated they welcomed the challenge.

“I learned about this from our guidance counselor, Mrs. Sjol,” Mayer said of the contest. “She came into our class one day and told us about the competition. I read into it and thought it was a good idea.”

Mayer said she had learned about the Constitution in eighth-grade social studies class. “We also learn about it later in high school,” Mayer added.

To prepare for the contest, Mayer said, “I’m doing a lot of research by myself. I’m focusing on the women’s rights part of it. Originally, women weren’t allowed to vote. Through women’s suffrage, they were allowed to vote,” Mayer said, adding she was using the school library and several websites for research into the topic. “I’m looking anywhere I can find information, really,” she said.

Mayer said she welcomed the chance to build her self-confidence by competing. “I’m in speech, so I also do a lot of talking and do lots of performances of that sort, so I thought this would be a fun way to get more knowledge through this kind of stuff – do a speech and memorize (materials) and become more grateful for our Constitution and what it’s done for our country.”

Mayer is the daughter of Scott and Tami Mayer of Rugby.

Corum, the daughter of Daniel and Tracy Corum, also of Rugby, indicated she looked forward to a confidence-building opportunity as well.

“She made the decision to attempt it because her family has strong beliefs in everyone’s constitutional rights,” Tracy Corum said of her daughter’s decision to enter the contest.

Madison Corum was absent from school the week before the contest and unavailable for an interview.

Tracy Corum said she “was very proud of (Madison) for doing this. Win or lose, it will be an amazing experience educationally and what a great time to learn more as the times we are finding ourselves in as American citizens.”

“Also, she has always been a shy person, so this is a huge step for her win or lose, and her family couldn’t be more proud of her.”

“Mr. Lemar, who is her science teacher, gave her a Constitution book that she has been going over,” Tracy Corum said of her daughter’s contest preparation. “Her father, Daniel Corum has been helping her to understand the Constitution a little more in depth.”

Guidance counselor Julie Sjol said of the contestants, “I’m excited for both of them. I know they’re both very capable.”

“I think they’re kind of getting their feet wet knowing this is an opportunity for them every year while they’re in high school to earn scholarship money and I think it’s really great that they’re taking advantage of it,” Sjol added.

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