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Students prepare for UIL academics

By RUBI REYES
May 14, 2009 at 12:14 a.m.

Brittany Bradshaw, a sophomore at Memorial High School, will be participating in a UIL competition.

International Extemporaneous

A contestant draws three questions on a foreign topic, selects one, then has 30 minutes to prepare an answer to the question.

The contestant uses a set of files that he or she has built as a resource for answering the question.

Only published materials may be used as resources (books, magazines, newspaper and online resources).

At the completion of the 30-minute preparation time, the student will speak on the topic for 7 minutes.

U.S. Extemporaneous

A contestant draws three questions on a domestic topic, selects one, then has 30 minutes to prepare an answer to the question.

The preparation, resources and speech time is the same as International Extemporaneous.

STATE BOUND ACADEMICS

Thirty-two students from Crossroads high schools will be featured in the days leading up to the state UIL competition. Some students will compete individually while others will compete in teams. Students will put their skills from math to design to the test at the competition in hopes of earning first in the state.

Coming Saturday: Nick Games of Cuero; Tyler (TJ) Biehle of Ganado; Nolan Oldham of Palacios.

Seventeen, Teen People and Cosmopolitan are common reading material among high school girls.

So when Brittany Bradshaw pulls out a copy of Time, her friends may raise a few eyebrows.

The Memorial High School sophomore's knowledge and curiosity of current events has earned her a place at the State UIL Academics Competition May 25 - 26 in Austin.

"This is my first year going to state. I'm really excited," Brittany said.

She placed first in Informative Speaking and first as a member of the Current Issues and Events team at the District 27-5A meet. She placed second in Informative Extemporaneous at the Region IV meet, which qualified her for state.

"I file all the extemp papers," Brittany said. "I don't see them again until competition."

To prepare for Informative Extemporaneous, Brittany said she organizes all the information she and the other students find online about current events and possible topics.

"I put all the files in these big tubs and keep them organized by subregion, country, content and economy," Brittany said.

The stock file information helps the students at competition. Based on the topic assigned to them, they know where to search for the information without wasting time.

"Coaching Brit has been a dream come true," Rock Westfahl, MHS speech teacher and coach, said. "She is so very bright and always listens and allows you to coach her."

Even when under stress, Brittany is able to stay even tempered and cool, he said.

"We travel a great deal and spend a lot of time couped up in school buses, hotels and school cafeterias, and it is easy for kids or anyone else to get intolerant of the people around them, but Brit doesn't," Westfahl said.

Students competing in Informative Extemporaneous are given 30 minutes to make a seven-minute speech, Brittany said.

"I just get in the zone and try to stay as focused as possible," she said. "I tend to get a bit nervous before I compete, but once I'm out there, all my nerves just disappear."

She uses her time wisely, because she is the filer, it is easy for her to find sources she can use.

"I use 15 minutes of my time to memorize all the evidence I'm going to use," she said. "Then, as I'm walking to the room where I will compete, I start to think of my introduction."

The outline for her speech is standard, she said. She comes up with three main points, an introduction and a conclusion.

"As I'm presenting my speech to the judges I'm also thinking of my conclusion," Brittany said.

Westfahl describes her speech skills as smooth, fluent and organized, which gives her a great advantage, he said.

"Extemp speeches are given to a judge who has heard a million other speeches, so in order to stand out, you need to be able to help the judge follow what you say," Westfahl said. "She is great at that. Her speeches are very consistent, very clear. She uses her research well and has a very high-level of general knowledge."

She usually knows something about almost any topic she gets and so it is easy for her to integrate and coordinate the material from the files with what she already knows, he said.

Brittany and 32 other students from across the Crossroads region will be among the students competing at state UIL Academic competition.

"I love the ability to teach someone something through my speech," Brittany said. "Only 13 of us will compete at state, I'm excited and ready."

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