An Alvinston teens speech about the power of never giving up and bringing out the best in others has earned her a berth in the Optimist World Championship Public Speaking Contest.
Hannah Symington has been competing in the contest since she was in Grade 4 hoping to win a $2,500 educational scholarship. She says with each year she learned a little more about what makes a good speech and how to deliver it. When this year’s theme was announced – How My Best Brings Out the Best in Others – she knew she wanted to talk about her favourite sport – baseball – and the man who taught it to her.
Symington, who won the District Competition Saturday to send her to St. Louis for the World Championship, talked about how her father introduced her to the game. “He taught me that baseball is kind of like the game of life, you win some, you lose some but no matter what you have to shake it off and be ready for the next play. His lessons inspired me to bring out the best in others,” she told the crowd of Optimists.
Symington says she had to put that into action when her father died of a heart attack when she was just 11. “At that very moment it felt like I had been hit with a pitch barreling towards me at 100mph. The kind that knocks the breath right out of you,” she says. “I was lost and confused. I had no idea what to do without my dad. I tried to be strong and put on a brave face for those around me. I wanted people to believe I was okay, that I wasn’t struggling. It was like being the reason your team lost the game. You had to get up and smile and pretend it was okay but inside you couldn’t believe the horrific events that had just taken place.”
Symington says came to realize that by being positive and helpful she could inspire others. “You are living proof that things get better, maybe not tomorrow or the next day but they do overtime. This was exactly what I was determined to do.”
The teen, who attends LCCVI and represents the Alvinston Optimist Club, can hardly believe she has secured the scholarship and will be travelling to worlds at the end of June. She lost her place in the speech but was able to recover without anyone know and it was three seconds overtime, which lost her points in the judging. “It still really hasn’t kicked in that I won,” she says. “It probably won’t until I have to go to the worlds.”