A Dawson County Middle School student has been named the best speaker in the entire state in the Optimist International's annual oratorical contest.
Eighth grade student Noah Stapp bested his competition in both middle and high school levels to take the win and a $2,500 college scholarship to the school of his choice.
"This started back in February when Noah won the middle school competition," said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Rick Brown. "He impressed four additional sets of judges when he first placed at the local Jasper oratorical contest, the zone contest and finally first place at the Georgia District competition."
Stapp's entry was titled: "How my optimism will help me press on to greater achievements of the future."
"Hope, or optimism, can bring desperately needed light in times of darkness. It...inspires us to look beyond the obstacles before us," Stapp said about his topic. "Optimism made me who I am today and is continuing to change me into a better human being."
The topic hit home for him, Stapp said, because of what his family went through shortly after his younger sister was diagnosed with a life-threatening chromosomal abnormality.
"She was missing parts of her body that were essential to her life. She was missing pieces of her heart and [other organs]," Stapp said. "We were encouraged to abandon hope and face reality...that optimism was unrealistic."
Because of this, Stapp said, he shares with others how optimism can keep people going, even in the face of adversity.
"This ... has inspired me to help other children like my sister," he said. "I currently work with a program dedicated to helping special needs children rise to their potential, because nothing is greater than seeing a child with physical or mental disabilities realize they are more than their diagnosis."
Stapp is the first ever State Oratorical Champion the Jasper Optimist Club has had in its history.
"I believe that my faith and a positive attitude will continue to help me press on to greater achievements and a greater future," Stapp said. "Because optimism can turn our setbacks into comebacks."