FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 2, 2021
Director of Communications
American Legion Department of Minnesota
Eden Valley-Watkins High School student wins state level of American Legion Oratorical Contest
ANOKA — A sophomore at Eden Valley-Watkins High School is the champion of the Minnesota American Legion Oratorical Contest.
Megan Blonigen, 16, earns a $1,500 scholarship from The American Legion Department of Minnesota.
She moves on to compete in the National American Legion Oratorical Contest April 22-24 in Indianapolis at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel. Quarterfinal and semifinal contests are scheduled for Saturday, April 23 with the finals scheduled for Sunday, April 24. Contestants and chaperones arrive Friday, April 22.
Scholarships are awarded at the national level, too. First place receives $25,000, second gets $22,500 and third takes $20,000. All national participants and first-round winners not in the finals receive $2,000.
Megan also won a $700 scholarship from the Legion’s District 7 of Minnesota.
“It’s just amazing to see our future leaders, how they can articulate our U.S. Constitution,” said Minnesota American Legion Commander Tom Fernlund of St. Cloud. “It’s just an honor to be able to attend one of the premier programs of The American Legion.”
Finalists from six American Legion districts across Minnesota competed at the state contest on Saturday, Feb. 26, at Anoka Post 102. Megan was sponsored by Eden Valley Post 381 and was the winner of the Legion’s 7th District, which is Grant, Douglas, Traverse, Stevens, Pope, Big Stone, Swift, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Lac Qui Parle, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Renville counties.
The Oratorical Contest requires contestants to deliver two speeches in front of a crowd without notes. The topics are related to the U.S. Constitution. The first speech is prepared beforehand and runs eight to 10 minutes; the second is three to five minutes, with just five minutes to prepare. Winners receive scholarships.
Megan said she hopes to go into politics someday.
“This contest has been a great opportunity for me to practice my speaking skills and talk about something important and something that I am passionate about,” she said.
Megan is the daughter of Sheri and Nicholas Blonigen of rural Paynesville. Their children attend Eden Valley-Watkins Schools.
The Oratorical Contest is part of The American Legion promoting the American form of government, which emphasizes public speaking. The contest and several American Legion youth activities, such as baseball, fall under Americanism, one of The American Legion’s Four Pillars.
Second place went to Devon Selmon, a senior at St. Agnes School in St. Paul. He was sponsored by St. Paul Arcade-Phalen Post 577 and was the winner of the Legion’s 4th District. He earns a $1,000 scholarship.
Abigail Erpelding, a sophomore home-schooler from Kasson, won third place. She was sponsored by Kasson Post 333 and won the 1st District. She earns a $700 scholarship.
Jonathan “Trent” Vickers, a junior home-schooler from Minneapolis, captured fourth place. He was sponsored by Minneapolis Falldin Post 555. He earns a $500 scholarship.
The last time a Minnesota student won the National Oratorical Contest was 2003, when Henry Shea IV of Wayzata took the title. He was sponsored by St. Louis Park Post 282. The contest has been in existence since 1938.
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