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Elementary and Junior High students celebrate what it means to be American at Oratorical Contest

Gold celebrating the best of GPS!

More than 20 students in costumes pose for a photo on the stairs of the stage inside Boulder Creek Elementary in Mesa, AZ.

History came alive inside Boulder Creek Elementary in Mesa. Students from across the district took part in the annual Gilbert Public Schools Oratorical Contest. GPS families, teachers, and administrators cheered on the competitors as they bravely recited speeches that embodied America’s heritage.

“I’ve seen everything from Shirley Temple to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Karen Coleman, K-12 Special Area and Gifted Coordinator for GPS. 

Coleman took over organizing the event years ago after former Greenfield Elementary Principal Robert Rimer retired. She says Rimer was inspired to start the districtwide contest after establishing a similar event at his Masonic lodge in the 1950s. For decades, the Oratorical Contest has been a beloved tradition of the GPS family.

“It’s very inspiring to see the kids do it. It usually brings tears to my eyes,” Coleman said.

Six students, three girls and three boys, dressed in costumes pose inside the library of Boulder Creek Elementary in Mesa.
All students who participated in the contest were from GPS elementary and junior high schools. The competition was broken down into three divisions based on grade levels. Each K-8th grade student memorized and recited a speech that was three to five minutes long. Speeches could be well-known or original works, but either way, they had to celebrate our shared history and traditions as Americans.

“I have even seen students use their own personal heritage, so it’s very inspiring to see how they take that and represent it in a speech,” Coleman said. 

Several students chose to really get into character by showing up in costume. It’s not required to compete, but it does bring extra flair to the contest. A panel of judges scored each presentation using a rubric and narrowed down the competition to the top finalists in each division.

“The winners usually recite their speeches at a Governing Board meeting,” Coleman said.

Two girls pose inside the auditorium of Boulder Creek Elementary, and one is holding a trophy while the other has a medal.
Congratulations to this year’s winners and to every GPS student who participated in the contest! A special thank you to our judges. 







Kindergarten through 2nd grade 

Brigham Jeppesen, Boulder Creek Elementary, Dr. Seuss - 1st Place

Charlotte Lea, Spectrum Elementary, Michelle Obama - 2nd Place

Cameron LeClair, Finley Farms Elementary, Abraham Lincoln - 3rd Place


3rd grade through 6th grade

Oliver Campos, Spectrum Elementary, George Washington - 1st Place

Brooklyn Jeppesen, Boulder Creek Elementary, Shirley Temple - 2nd Place

Ruby Webb, Superstition Springs Elementary, Dr. Priscilla White - 2nd Place

Anna Hanks, Quartz Hill Elementary, Susan B. Anthony - 3rd Place

Makenna Shumway, Oak Tree Elementary, Ride Sally Ride - 3rd Place


7th grade through 8th grade

Oceana Anders, Greenfield Junior High, Margaret Bourke-White - 1st Place

Charlotte Pascoe, Gilbert Classical Academy, We are All Outsiders - 2nd Place


Written by Kailey Latham