The Inland Empire Resource Conservation District (IERCD) hosted their annual Speak-Off speech competition at the East Valley Water District (EVWD) Headquarters in Highland on Thursday, October 12th, 2017. The topic for this event is different each year, and the 2017 prompt challenged participants to address “How can Resource Conservation Districts better involve their communities in conservation?” Students in grades 9-12 on campuses within IERCD service boundaries were eligible to participate.
A total of twenty-nine students participated in the 2017 contest, representing campuses including Banning High School, Beaumont High School, Citrus Valley High School, Colton High School, Jurupa Valley High School, Rialto High School, San Bernardino High School, and Yucaipa High School. Speeches were assessed using criteria including length, content, and delivery, and were judged by IERCD Director Terrie Andrews, East Valley Water District employees Mike Hurst and Patrick Milroy, Rancho Cucamonga City Councilwoman Diane Williams, Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Tomas Aguilar-Campos, and Santa Ana Watershed Biologist Jill Coumoutso. Following the competition, winners were announced including first place - Katalina Peterson, Beaumont High School; second place – Jamie Goodrich, Beaumont High School; third place – Kyle Dayton, Jurupa Valley High School; and honorable mention – Victor Mendoza, Rialto High School. All winners received cash prizes and all participants received certificates of appreciation and a goody bag from the IERCD.
Following the competition, Ms. Peterson competed at the regional level, then at the statewide competition held during the California Association of Resource Conservation District’s annual conference. She was awarded first place by a judging panel consisting of the Director of the California Department of Conservation, the acting director of the California division of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the former Board President of the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts. Upon her return to school after the holiday break, Ms. Peterson intends to put elements of her speech into action, including development of an IERCD auxiliary club sponsored by the District and focused on education and outreach involving Beaumont High students and community.