UNION, NJ – Three Union High School students displayed their oratory skills in the Marvin Orella Speech Contest at the Rotary Club of Union’s Annual Eloquence Soiree on Wednesday night.

Twenty-one students participated in the May 29th event, which ended with the top three contestants:  Theophilus Awosola, Ayokunnumi Oluwakuyide, and Arthanious Shafik, presenting their speeches at the Rotary Club Soiree.  The three finalists did not know their final placement in the contest.  Each presented their speech on “Be the inspiration”.  This is the 22nd year for the Rotary’s speech contest, which has given out over $110,000 in scholarships since its inception in 1997.

Theophilus Awosola was born in Nigeria.  He and his family came to the United States in 2005 in hopes of more opportunity.  Awosola considers himself a student of life.  He loves art, music, fashion, and all things of the world.  Although he isn’t a scholar in school, Awosola loves learning and wishes school was more about learning than grades.  Post-high school plans for Awosola include a move to New York to chase his musical endeavors.  Awosola wishes to change the world for the better and hopes to make an impact on the education system in the future.

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Ayokunnumi (Faithful) Oluwakuyide is a junior at Union High School.  She derives her inspiration from a rejection letter she received in eighth grade, which led her to enter Union High School, which allowed her to become the New Jersey American Legion Oratorical Champion, and with the support of her teachers Sandra Mangarella and Jonathan Tummillo, Oluwakuyide competed at the National level.  Her journey to Union High School contributed to her overall success today.

Arthanious Shafik is a junior at Union High School who juggles six AP classes and two honors classes.  His true passion, however, has always been to inspire people through competitive speech.  Some of his inspirations include his English teacher, Ms. Mangarella, who instilled in him confidence and a drive for success, and Mr. Tummillo, a public speaking teacher who devoted not only his mornings but also his invaluable advice to Shafik.  Shafik gets his ambition from his father, Saad Shafik, a Coptic Egyptian Christian who immigrated to the United States from Egypt so his family could have the opportunities he gave up.

Each student passionately presented their speech on ‘Inspiration’ to the crowd.  Rotarian Jim DiGiovanni, emcee for the evening, announced the final contest placements: 

First Place:       Arthanious Shafik ($2,500)

Second Place:  Ayokunnumi Oluwakuyide ($1,500)

Third Place:     Theophilus Awosola ($1,000)

"The Rotary Club is filled with pride to continue the great tradition of awarding scholarships to the top three winners of the Marvin Orella Speech Contest," said Rotary Club of Union President Robert O'Connell.  "Our soiree is held to honor the students who excel in the art and pay tribute to those educators who go the extra mile in supporting an enviornment in which students are challenged, nurtured and encouraged to achieve their potential."

Also at the Soiree, the Excellence in Education Award was presented to Randi Moran, Supervisor, English Language Arts 5-12, and Union Township Historical Society President, Barbara LaMort.

Moran began teaching English at Union High School in 2010.  After receiving her Masters in Educational Leadership, she became the English Supervisor for grades 5-12 since 2015.  As Supervisor, Moran has led the English Department to a more rigorous curriculum including more progressive instructional strategies and has assisted her department with embracing various initiatives, including blended learning and collaborative practices. 

LaMort has been involved in the Union Historical Society since 2009, serving as Secretary, Vice President and currently President.  She obtains grants for preservation of the clothing collection, 18th century documents, and the Caldwell Parsonage itself.  She promotes the historical society by writing press releases, assisting with presentations by UTHS members and guest speakers, and with open houses, private tours, field trips and scout programs at the Parsonage.

The evening was capped off with a Basket Auction and Super 50/50 which helps fund the scholarships.