April 9, 2021 - An eighth-grade student from Church Hill Middle School won the Fourth Annual Comal Speaks competition for the Comal Independent School District recently. A self-described performer who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, this year’s champion was among the top 14 middle school students in the district to compete in the virtual final round on March 2.
“It was a little weird to compete through a computer,” said Becker Russell, 14, “but to me, speaking is just speaking. If it is a computer or a thousand people, you just have to think of it as speaking to one of your best friends. That’s how I think of it.”
Russell was among 14 middle school students to compete for the championship title. Representing their middle schools, the sixth through eighth grade competitors were each given topics related to Comal Commitment character traits, which consist of responsibility, respect, judgment, honesty, integrity, courtesy, confidence, teamwork, empathy and perseverance.
The students are given three minutes to prepare their responses on topics that relate to those traits and three minutes to present their speeches to judges.
Russell chose to talk about empathy, specifically, “how do you show empathy and name a time when you showed empathy.” He shared about a time when he and his family stopped to help someone they saw sleeping in a tent on the side of the road on a very cold day. That one stop turned into his very own service-based group named “Kids Who Kare,” and ultimately raised money to purchase blankets, pillows and sleeping bags for those in need.
“It made me feel really good to help others,” Russell recalled, and he hopes to continue to be of service to those in his community.
He also encourages other students to express themselves whether it be through sports, theatre, music, dance or speaking.
“What you have to say matters,” Russell said. “It doesn’t matter what others think about it. If it is something that you truly believe in, nobody can say it doesn’t matter. Say what’s on your heart and what’s on your mind, and if you believe it that’s all that matters.”
The Comal Speaks competition started four years ago in order to continue and capitalize on the interest students had in the Comal Shake competition for elementary students. Many of these finalists competed as elementary students in the Shake contest and were anxious to continue to use the character traits in middle school.
This year’s Comal Speaks top six finalists included Melanie Scheerer from Davenport Middle in second place, Isabella Hickey from Smithson Valley Middle in third place, Annie Henderson from Pieper Ranch Middle in fourth place, Caden Scales from Canyon Middle in fifth place and Alana Stanford from Danville Middle in sixth place.
The other top 14 included Alyssa Lerma from CMS, Lauren Edenburn from CHMS, Danielle Smith and Gabriel Sweet from Mountain Valley Middle, D’Miyah James from PRMS, Chloe Bankston and Malana Martin from Spring Branch Middle and Emilie Ramirez from SVMS.
-Becker Russell, an eighth-grade student from Church Hill Middle School, is this year’s champion of the Fourth Annual Comal Speaks competition.