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SVGS reclaims Secondary Schools National Public Speaking championships after three-year drought

SVGS reclaims Secondary Schools National Public Speaking championships after three-year drought


The St Vincent Grammar School (SVGS) has reclaimed the Lions Club South Secondary Schools National Public Speaking championship for the first time since 2011.

Fifth form student Aaron Weekes, in an almost clean sweep of the judged categories, won the Lion Michael Defreitas MJF Challenge{{more}} Trophy last Thursday at the Methodist Church Hall.

Weekes is the first SVGS student to win the competition since Utamu Rose gave the school its hat-trick in 2011. Lexie Selman won the competition for the Bishop’s College in 2012, while the Mountain View Adventist Academy’s Eric February took the trophy in 2014. There was no competition in 2013.

Weekes took the top award for his presentation of the competition’s main topic: “Our approach to homosexuality is a reflection of our failure to embrace diversity and greater tolerance for people who are different.”

He began his discussion on the main topic by boldly asking “If I were to publicly declare tonight, right now, that I am gay, what would you think of me? Would you pack up and leave? Would you accuse the Lion’s Club South, LIME, the NIS or the St Vincent Grammar School of supporting homosexuality?

Would you judge me differently? Or would it not matter, as I am a human being just like you?”

Weekes said according to the Huffington Post, an American online news aggregator and blog, St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the three most homophobic Caribbean countries, along with Haiti and Jamaica.

This he said is influenced by dancehall music that has enticed the youths of St Vincent. To support his point, he quoted lyrics from songs of popular performing artistes such as ‘Beenie Man’ and ‘Buju Banton’ which encourage people to engage in violence against homosexuals.

“…according to one unnamed Vincentian writer, gays should be respected and treated as people first,” he stated.

Weekes, who spoke for nine minutes and 32 seconds, stated that tolerance is not acceptance, and followed this by quoting Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

“Consider these questions: Hath not homosexuals hands, organs, senses, affections or passions? Are they not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases and healed by the same means, as we are? If you prick them would they not bleed? If you tickle them, would they not laugh? If you poison them, would they not die…?”

Weekes concluded that while we all have the right to condemn homosexuality, we also have the responsibility to accept and respect homosexuals, as we would any other human being.

In the impromptu category, which he also won, the Grammar School student spoke on

“Inappropriate posts on social media,” which resonated with the crowd, as he made mention of the recent surge in the circulation of pornographic videos online.

Weekes opposed the stereotypical view that inappropriate posts were only made by youth, stating that everyone posts inappropriately and obscene language and slander are also viewed as inappropriate.

“Inappropriate posts have led to a lot of problems… in some cases jail time…or social scorn,” he said.

The former 2015 Young Leader then urged persons to post appropriately when surfing the Internet.

“When surfing the Internet one should be mindful of what you post, for inappropriate posting is not acceptable,” he said, speaking for one minute and 15 seconds.

Placing second overall was Shemar Dennis of the West St George Secondary School, who was no doubt the crowd favourite.

In third place was Jaykel Mars, a fluent speaker from the Bishop’s College Kingstown.

“I’m really happy with my performance tonight and that I brought the trophy back home to Grammar School,” Weekes said, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT just after his victory.

Although he missed a lot of classes in preparations for the competition, Weekes enjoyed the experience and believes that the competition achieved its desired outcome, which was to help build the English and public speaking skills of the competitors.

“I’m really elated, because it was a lot of preparation,” he remarked.

“He really put his best foot forward” said Nakita Boucher, Weekes’ English and Form teacher, while speaking to SEARCHLIGHT.

Weekes was assisted in his preparation by Boucher, Eworth Abrams and head of the English Department, Caron Bucchan.

His mother, Luanna Weekes and sister, La Teisha Sandy, also expressed how proud they were.

In addition to winning the Michael DeFreitas MJF Challenge trophy, Weekes also received trophies for winning the main topic and impromptu rounds, a two-year tertiary scholarship, valued at $1,600 annually, and an Alcatel Tablet from LIME, along with a smart phone for being a finalist.

Because of Weekes’ victory, the SVGS will also receive $3,000 towards any school project, compliments LIME.

Dennis, who was the crowd favourite because of his frank speaking style, placed second in the main topic.

There was an outburst of laughter as began: “The following presentation is intended for mature audiences,” after which he boldly asked: “Why is it two guys refuse to ride in the front seat alongside the driver?” to which he answered “Homophobia is the answer to that.”

He then riddled the audience with questions about what is classified as homophobic behaviour.

In commending the organizers of the discussion for placing the national spotlight on such a sensitive and private issue, Dennis went on to state that the Vincentian approach to homosexuality immediately relates to Buju Banton’s hit song ‘Boom Bye Bye,’ along with other Caribbean singers who echo the same sentiments.

He, however, added that music alone cannot be blamed, as the Caribbean has accepted norms and mores based on the Holy Bible; he then quoted Leviticus 18:22.

Dennis stated that homosexuality becomes widespread because homosexuals are shunned by heterosexuals.

“As a people we will never be able to control what we don’t understand…

“If we as a people are to overcome the effects of homosexuality, then we must all be willing to learn to see things differently whether we are for and against it. Anything less with be counterproductive… our approach to homosexuality will either help us or destroy us all,” he said.

Jaykel Mars swept the Student’s Prepared Topic away from the SVGS, winning this category with his speech ‘Colloquial Wisdom’.

Mars stated that it was refreshing to “experience the richness of our culture” in the Ms Heritage Pageant, in particular Vincentian colloquialism.

He went on to fluently comment on social issues in St Vincent and the Grenadines, while cleverly answering them using what we call ‘old people sayings,’ which he said he got from his grandmother. The top three contenders each received an Alcatel Tablet, along with a two-year scholarship towards their tertiary education.

Second placed Dennis will receive 1,000 annually, while Mars will receive $500 annually.

Additionally, all finalists received smart phones, compliments LIME. (AS)