Block girls win local competition


Two young women at Louis and Sarah Block Yeshiva High School earned the top two spots in a St. Louis-area Optimist International Oratorical contest.

Freshman Tova Kay, 14, won first place and sophomore Dodi Smason, 15, won second place in the speaking contest held Feb. 22 at University City High School.

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To take part in the contest, participants had to write a speech between four and five minutes long answering the question “What has been one of your greatest challenges?”

At Block Yeshiva, all of the freshmen and sophomores wrote a speech about the topic and presented their works to the class. From those recitations, Kay and Smason were chosen to represent the school at the contest.

Kay said she was inspired to write about one of her nagging bad habits: procrastination.

“I always wait until the last minute to do what I need to do, and sometimes that can get you in trouble,” she said.

So, in addition to weaving together personal examples from her life along with the lessons she learned, Kay also approached the subject with lessons from the Torah on the subject.

“There’s a quote in the Torah that says, ‘the day is short, the task is great, the workers are lazy and the reward is great, and the master is insistent,'” Kay said.

Although speaking before an audience at the contest was a bit nerve-wracking, Kay said, she is looking forward to the next step: the state-wide contest, to which she advances, having won the St. Louis competition.

Smason chose a different topic to cover in her speech. “I wrote about finding God in even the most difficult times,” Smason said. “I think a lot of people struggle with that idea, so it made sense to me to put it into words,” she said.

Smason said she and Kay gave each other support during the competition, and she wishes Kay the best in the next round of competitions.

That contest may be a bit more difficult, Kay said, since she will have to have the entire four-and-a-half minute speech memorized. For the St. Louis contest, participants could refer to their notes.

“It’ll be tough, and I’m already practicing and memorizing my speech,” Kay said.

“For the last contest, I was really nervous, but winning has given me a big boost in confidence, and now I’m mainly looking forward to the competition,” she said.

“But I’m still just a little bit nervous,” she added.

The state competition takes place in St. Louis on April 12.