By Nez SavalaUma Upamaka knows the Constitution of the United States and she has the skills to hold her own in competitions focused on the concepts of the Constitution.
Upamaka, a freshman at Francis Howell North, qualified for the state finals of the American Legion Oratorical [ALO] contest. She’s won ALO competitions since December, starting with a contest in St. Charles. Then she won a district level event, allowing her to move on to a Zone Competition in Hannibal in January and advanced to the Final Four in Jefferson City on Feb. 18.
Upamaka’s speech and debate coach, Randy Pierce, said she is “very adept at focusing on new concepts for extended periods of time.” Pierce said she has “a natural tendency to think carefully” and is “exceptionally poised for someone her age.”
The ALO contest requires all speeches to focus on the U.S. Constitution in ‘whatever fashion each student chooses,’” said Pierce. Upamaka pinpoints the first three words of the preamble, “We the People.” All contestants are required to give an extemporaneous speech, with only five minutes to prepare, on an amendment chosen by random selection.
ALO competitions began in 1938.
Participants can earn college scholarships through the program. Upamaka is guaranteed at least $1,400 by qualifying for state finals. The winner of the state competition goes on to nationals. First place earns an $18,000 scholarship; second and third place winners also earn scholarships.