A SENIOR team from Dart­mouth Academy put on a blistering performance to win the area Rotary Youth Speaks competition.

Despite being the youngest team in their group, their performance was described by the senior adjudicator as ‘outstanding’.

Organisers said it was difficult to think of a topic for the competition that the judges have not come across before.

But the Dartmouth team came up with such a novel idea that it required the invention of a new word to describe it – Volun­tourism – so novel that the host Rotary Club of Paignton thought it was a spelling mistake on the entry form!

The Rotary Club of Dart­mouth sponsored three teams in the competition this year, one in each age category, the maximum allowed under Rotary rules.

The junior team for students aged under11 years on the qualifying date of August 31, 2015, represented Stoke Fleming Primary School.

They debated the topic Should We Crush the Sugar Rush? Hollie Simnett as chairman introduced the topic and described our addiction to artificially sweetened drinks and foods as ‘the white death’.

Lucas Thomson spoke eloquently on the subject, horrifying the audience with statistics such as an average five-year-old eating their own weight in sugar cubes each year, arguing for a sugar tax and emphasising the important distinction between such sugar additives and natural sugars occurring in fruit and other foods.

Niamh Finnegan proposed a vote of thanks, congratulating Lucas on how well be made his presentation and dealt with the difficult question posed by one of the two senior Rotarians appointed to question each speaker.

The Stoke Fleming team was loudly applauded and their performance was widely ranked as in the top half of the six teams competing in this age category.

Dartmouth Academy provided the Dartmouth entries for the Intermediate age category, for students aged 11-13 years, and the senior category for students aged 14-17 years on the qualifying date.

The intermediate team of Owen Elwell, Ollie Gibbs and Amber Burrows addressed the issue of the minimum wage and the iniquity of this not applying to students under the age of 14, undertaking approved work out of school time.

Ollie evinced considerable sympathy for the low pay he received when helping a gardener, although he did admit that he gained considerable benefits from such experience working with his father.

Six teams contested this age category, which was won by Exmouth Community College.

There were only three teams in the senior category, one from Dartmouth Academy, and others from secondary schools in the Exeter area, Isca Academy and Exeter College.

Rotary said the standard of debate in this category was consistently high as one would expect from such confident young adults.

The title went to the Dartmouth Academy team chaired by Darion Clark, who introduced the subject, cleverly drawing allusions to the Rotary motto of ‘service before self’ when explaining to the audience that the topic referred to the growing popularity among young people to volunteer in developing countries and in return getting to see exotic parts of the world.

George Bakewell gave a light-hearted and amusing narrative of the swings he experienced in his attitude to such volunteering as he searched his inner self for the real reason behind choosing to go to Borneo to undertake voluntary work.

Judges found his performance, right on time and without any prompts or notes, to be enormously impressive.

Harriet Henshall proposed a vote of thanks and the whole team was applauded to the rafters.

The adjudicators praised each of the three teams but pronounced Dartmouth Academy the winners for their ‘outstanding’ performance, and the high standard all team members brought to their role in the presentation.

Dartmouth will now go forward to the district finals to be held at Bodmin School on Saturday, February 27, when they will be competing against teams from throughout the whole of Devon and Cornwall.

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