COOL FOR SCHOOL: Northcoast Prep freshman wins local Lions Club speaker contest

Region level contest to take place in Eureka, April 6

Lion Cyndi Bainbridge presents Zoe Osborn, NPA freshman and “Zone” level winner of a district Lions Club Speaker Contest, with a check. (Zoe Osborn — Contributed)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Editor’s note: Cool for School is a new column with an educational focus that will publish Fridays in the Times-Standard.

It was a concern for contemporary suspicion of print media that led Northcoast Preparatory Academy freshman Zoe Osborn to participate in and win a “Zone” level Lions Club Speaker Contest on March 2 at Dow’s Prairie Grange in McKinleyville, following a “Club” level win at the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce Office on Feb. 2. She now advances to the “Region” level competition early next month where she will represent the “Redwood Zone” in contest with the winner of Humboldt County’s other Lions Club zone, Eel River, at the McKinlevyille chamber office.

“I think that these contests are so important because they’re offering a platform for students who usually don’t have as big a platform to be heard,” Osborn said. “It was a chance for me to really share my thoughts with people outside my school, with the Lions Club. It’s also an important way to get scholarship money.”

The California Lions Club hosts this annual event, now in its 82nd year, to fulfill its commitment to “leadership development” in young people, Bob Stewart, chair of the club’s Multiple District Four region, which includes Humboldt County, wrote in the contest handbook. The contest affords high school students from across the country with cash prizes — $100 at the Club level, $150 at Zone level and $250 at the Region level — and a scholarship totaling $21,000 for the speaker who wins the “District,” “Area,” and “MD-4” level contests at $4,500,  $6,500 and $10,000 respectively. The District level competition, where the scholarship distribution begins, will be held in Windsor and involves winners of the each of the six Lions Club Region level contests.

“This year’s contest theme is particularly relevant with an intended outcome where participants are enriched with a new and deeper understanding of communication and its context,” Stewart wrote of the topic for 2019: “Freedom of the Press: What Does it Mean?”

“This year’s contest theme is particularly relevant with an intended outcome where participants are enriched with a new and deeper understanding of communication and its context,” wrote Bob Stewart, chair of the club’s Multiple District Four region, which includes Humboldt County, in the contest handbook. (Lions Club — Contributed)

The focus of the 2019 competition sparked Osborn’s interest in returning to the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ “Statement of Principles” that was distributed last fall in her journalism class at Northcoast Preparatory Academy.

According to Osborn and as outlined on the ASNE website, the statement lists the ethical obligations to which journalists are committed for upholding standards of accuracy, fairness, nonbias, public accountability and transparency in reporting the news. Osborn’s speech revolves around the responsibility not only of journalists for upholding these guidelines but the general public as well — for, as she argues in her presentation, “freedom of the press is what enhances our individual rights as citizens in a democracy.”

“I definitely think there’s a misconception among people that it’s only on the people publishing the news … to put out accurate information,” Osborn said. “There is a large amount of accountability on their part, but it’s also on the consumers. Anyone can post online, a blog, and even larger media outlets like Buzzfeed, which have huge platforms, that publish news that isn’t quite right or biased. It’s really our job when we’re reading the news to be intelligent about what we’re reading and check to make sure that it’s accurate and that it isn’t biased.”

Osborn wrote her speech over the course of two afternoons — with editorial feedback from NPA instructors Jean Bazemore, Andrew Freeman and Arnold King — before presenting it and winning at the Club level in McKinlevyille.

Osborn is grateful for the opportunity to sharpen her speaking skills in a competition that prompts its participants, as she said of her own speech, to “get to the point” in a “powerful way.”

Her success at the Club level — which includes the Eureka, McKinlevyille and Trinidad clubs — led Osborn to the Zone competition at Dow’s Prairie Grange alongside fellow NPA students Ari Alter, freshman, and Bella Ely, sophomore. Osborn was impressed by her colleagues’ speeches, which she said were “really good” — Alter’s focusing on the history of the press and its role in “people taking action” and Ely’s on how the United States press compares to other presses from around the world such as China, which has “tight restrictions on news,” Osborn said.

“(The) students have really responded well to the topic,” said District Governor Barry Bialkoski in a news release. “These contests help train the students to be active leaders by learning to speak in  public.”

Osborn said she does not necessarily want to pursue a career in journalism, instead focusing on STEM, but she feels strongly about the topic.

“It’s very relevant today in light of all the new forms of technology we have … to create a larger platform for news and also fake news,” she said.

Osborn now moves on to the Region contest, which takes place April 6 at the McKinlevyille chamber office.

Rob Peach can be reached at 707-441-0503. 

blog comments powered by Disqus