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Kaylie Smith

Charter school senior Kaylie Smith won second place in Salem at the American Legion Oratorical Contest. She plans to study at the University of Oregon, eventually working as a high school English teacher. 

REEDSPORT — One of Reedsport's own has captured second place at the American Legion scholarship competition.

Kaylie Smith, a student at the Reedsport Community Charter School, spoke of the need to participate in government — specifically through what's called the American Legion Oratorical Contest.

She competed against three other girls in Salem March 3 at the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs, earning $1,800 in scholarship money. 

"One was from the Oregon City area. The other one was from Bend," Smith said. Another young woman from a Portland school competed.

"It was pretty difficult. I wasn't allowed to watch any of the other competitors giving their speeches and so I thought that made it even harder," the RCCS senior said. 

Perhaps just like when you were in a high school English or history class, your teacher emphasized write and rewrite a speech or essay. That was no exception for Smith. 

She reflected on when she spoke at the Legion's Reedsport dinner, saying "that one was just way too short ... and I added another element." 

Smith had digged into the speech, starting in December. She figures she practiced her speech at least 30 minutes per day for "at least three months." 

In her speech, the youth focused on the need for "a call to action."

"It was just for the older generations to work with youth to get them involved in politics," said Smith, who competes on the school's golf team.

Competitors had to make their speeches a minimum of eight minutes long. Adding more of a challenge, the students from Oregon couldn't use any notes. In an interesting twist for Smith, participants didn't have a podium. She liked this because "you get to interact more."

After winning at Reedsport and receiving $250 toward college, Smith then gave it her best shot, winning $100 at Myrtle Creek.  She competed next at Roseburg Feb. 10. 

According to the American Legion website, second place winners get $16,000 and third place competitors at $14,000 — that's if they make it to nationals. This year, high school youth from around the nation will compete in April in Indianapolis. Kaylie serves as a backup competitor if the first place winner isn't able to make it to Nationals. 

About 20 audience members attended the Roseburg event and as for Myrtle Creek, "that one had about 50." 

"Then there was about 50 plus at state," she said. This included Legion members and "all the families as well." 

Smith will attend the University of Oregon, where she'll study to become a high school English teacher. 

She'll get a full ride scholarship for tuition and fees to the UO and this is just one of the scholarships she's getting. 

Her grandmother, Ronda Smith, showed her love for Kaylie.

"I would say that she's driven and she has her goals set," Ronda said and that "she's overcome her shyness." 

Kaylie keeps busy with studies and volunteering in Reedsport. She's a member of the National Honor Society, serves as the teen coordinator for the weekly teen group at the library. 

"Yeah I'm very proud of her," Ronda said. 

The Umpqua Post Editor Shelby Case can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 296 or


Umpqua Post Editor