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Gift of gab snags Woody $1,750 Rotary Club prize

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By Kaitlin Keane

Rising Midway High School senior Aaron Woody won first place in the Rotary District 6780 Four-Way Speech Scholarship Competition.

Woody was able to advance to the district contest after winning the Kingston Rotary Club contest and was awarded a $1,750 scholarship to the school of his choice.

He competed last year for the scholarship chance and because he is a self-proclaimed talker.

“I went and got second place after a double-header win for second and third,” Woody said.

The purpose of the organization’s Four-Way Test is to help youth, Rotarians and the community-at-large to more completely understand, encourage and foster the principles of Rotary and the objects of “Service Above Self.”

Woody and his parents decided that for this year’s speech it would be better to go with a more personal speech. The reason is because a personal experience is easier to talk about, and Woody said the grading is based more on presentation and less on what is actually said.

In July 2012, Woody was nominated to represent Tennessee as a national youth correspondent to the 2012 Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University.

““I just had an amazing time,” Woody said.

Woody’s parents suggested he use the conference as inspiration for his speech.

“They said, ‘Well you had a great time, and you haven’t shut up about it since then, so why don’t you just put the two together?’” Woody said.

“When I started to think about it, everything that we were taught just almost fell in perfectly with the Four-Way test.”

Competitors are not allowed to use note cards or props, thus a more personal speech made it more flexible — like having a normal conversation.

“A lot of practice and standing in front of a mirror” was involved with Woody preparing.

Woody brags on his parents for listening to him give the speech multiple times in the weeks leading up.

“Whenever I’d be around the house practicing they’d be like, ‘That’s not the same way you said it last time,’ because they knew it as well as I did,” he joked.

“I was completely rattled after,” he said, “I came and sat back down after giving my speech, and I was just shaking.”

He was able to relate the week long conference in a couple different ways.

Being able to figure out the “truthfulness in the media and sort out the bias.” Fair to all concerned “has to do with the people in charge and how they try and sway you around.”

Building goodwill and better friendships “is connected to the entire social media aspect.”

And lastly, being beneficial to all concerned — “Of course it will. We have all this stuff happening all over the world because of social media and journalism is getting it out there to the public and how it’s not being censored,” he said.

While Woody isn’t interested in pursing journalism in college, he thinks it will help with what he wants to do.

“I’d like to do international business and really like to be a corporate lawyer,” he said.

Meeting new people and finding out about them is something that Woody can really take away from journalism.

“Everyone is just a little different, and I like seeing how people are different and how they see things differently,” he said.

He was among nine contestants participating.

Sixty-six Rotary Clubs in East and Middle Tennessee comprise District 6780.