Celebrate this year’s Stark Reading Contest winners; $15K in scholarships distributed

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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The Board of Directors and administrative staff of the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation congratulate the winners of the 2023 County Finals of the 119th Miriam Lutcher Stark Contest in Reading and Declamation.

On April 23, students who previously won first place at the various local level competitions held at each of the five Orange County public high schools competed in the categories of Declamation and Interpretive Reading at the County Final at Lutcher Theater.

“We want to congratulate the county winners, all local level winners and all finalists for their outstanding accomplishments, as this year was a truly fantastic contest,” said Trina Nelson Thomas, executive director for Stark Art & History Venues.

Lutcher Stark is shown acknowledging a past student winner recipient. (Courtesy photo)

West Orange-Stark High School’s Alexis Baumgartner won first place in Declamation, and Matthew Whitten from Orangefield High School won first place in Interpretive Reading.

Both students received a $5,000 scholarship for their first place awards.

For her Declamation, Baumgartner presented “United Nations Earth Summit Speech” by Severn Suzuki. Whitten’s reading was from “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu.

Second place in Declamation went to Ava Gassen of Bridge City High School for her delivery of “A Whisper of Aids” by Mary Fisher.

West Orange-Stark High School’s Camryn Nevils took second place in Interpretive Reading with her reading from “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley.

Each second-place winner received a $2,500 scholarship. Both first and second-place winners were also presented with plaques.

Clyde V. McKee, Stark Foundation president and CEO, presented all County Final contestants with commemorative watches, which is a long-held tradition of the Stark Reading Contest.

More than 104 students participated in the school levels of this year’s Stark Reading Contest, which is sponsored by the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation.

“All participants, from the school preliminaries to the County Final, should be applauded for their hard work and effort,” Thomas said. “Many thanks go to the local school directors: Ron Chevalier (Orangefield H.S.), Melanie Claybar (Little Cypress-Mauriceville H.S.), Mason Franco (West Orange-Stark H.S.), Hannah Landry (Bridge City H.S.) and Stacy Webb (Vidor H.S.). Their efforts are critical in making this program a success.”