UNION, NJ – A Union High School junior was among only 53 high school orators from around the county who earned the distinction to compete in the American Legion’s 82nd Annual National Oratorical Contest.

Ayokunnumi (Faithful) Oluwakuyide (center, black jacket) participates in the  American Legion's 82nd National Oratorical Contestipated in the contest finals, held in Indianapolis April 6-7.  The contest, according to the American Legion website, “exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students.”  The eight- to ten-minute prepared speech must be on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution with an emphasis on the duties and obligations of citizens to our government; shorter three to five minute speeches on assigned amendments are also part of the contest.

The students were put in bracketed groups of six for the first round at the National competition.  The winner of each round then moved on to the semi-finals leading to the final three who competed on Sunday.  

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Oluwakuyide’s parents and her teacher-coaches from Union High School, Sandy Mangarella and Jon Tummillo, were on hand to support her.  Oluwakuyide competed against the European winner from Belgium, as well as students from Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama with her speech “Hate Speech is Free Speech”.

“All of the contestants delivered unbelievable speeches,” said Mangarella, who drove with Tummillo to Indianapolis to attend the event.  “There was the best of the best in this contest. It was amazing to hear students delivering oratorical masterpieces that they each wrote themselves. These students will be the future politicians, Supreme Court justices and not surprisingly, future Presidents of the United States. Every contestant, including Faithful, had to go through four local, regional, district and state competitions to reach this national level.  It is the most stringent academic contest in the United States for students under 20 years old.”

A student from Oklahoma won out over Oluwakuyide in the first round.  Oluwakuyide won $1,500 and “made her teachers and parents proud of her awesome performance and oratorical capabilities,” said Mangarella.  Patrick Junker, the student state winner from Iowa, won first place and $18,000.  

“What was quite remarkable was that all these students were able to make friends with each other, even though they were rivals, as the competition included various social activities for them such as a pizza party and a karaoke night for them to unwind,” said Mangarella.

Mangarella said because Oluwakuyide did not win the national event, she is eligible to enter the process again at the local level in December if she chooses.  

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