Pictured left to right: Skylene Willingham, Braydon Hunter, and Program Chairman Lion Craig Brydges. (Photo by Dean Craig).
By Dean Craig Okmulgee Lion
WOW! And double WOW!! What a powerful teaching experience was given to us Lions by Braydon Hunter, Okmulgee High School senior who has earned his way to the speech National Finals in Alabama in June (17). Lion Craig Brydges was the program chairman and a retired teacher of 36 years, a former Speech and Drama teacher for OHS, who had four students go to Nationals, one of whom won a National Championship. He introduced present OHS Speech teacher, Skylene Willingham, who introduced Braydon Hunter to the club.
In her introduction, Willingham stated that Hunter had come to her and wanted to be in competitive speech, his first year. And the rarity of it all, no one accomplishes the goals that Hunter had, and in his first year. And all this was accomplished by competing against all schools with no class divisions, including schools like Booker T. Washington, Sapulpa, and others. What is so amazing is that nearly all of the competing speech coaches would come up to her and ask, "where did you find this kid"?
Hunter was born in Idabel but the family moved to Okmulgee shortly thereafter, but his beginning school experience was met with disastrous results by being expelled from kindergarten for his disruptive behavior. Again being expelled from the third grade, he returned to Idabel to live with his grandmother to complete the school year. Somewhere along the way, he "got it" and now is a straight A student, participates in sports, with no behavior problems.
Hunter writes poetry and wanted to do a poetry speech but was told that poetry was not a category, so he would need to just do a speech, however, did incorporate some poetry in his speech. What a powerful and impactful 8-10 minute speech he gave, one that was prone to bring tears to your eyes. He declared that he was a ghetto child, which is not a black thing but a ghetto thing. He referred to the movie "Slum Dog Millionaire" and of the increase in poverty among minorities, with 22,000 children dying each day around the world due to poverty. His way out was that he found wisdom. As a result, he will be attending college at Cameron University (Lawton) on scholarship, the first in his family to attend college.
After his very moving speech, Hunter had time for a questions/answer session. My question was what happened to change this behavioral-problem child into this now straight A model student? His answer was, "when I made my mother cry" because she thought I would turn out to be a criminal, and when a teacher told him that she believed in him and that he could be successful at whatever he wanted to do. I cannot help but "editorialize" on the fact that a teacher was just doing her job but performed a miracle. Two occupations that are among some of the lower-paid jobs but require the highest "callings" are teachers and preachers. One prepares our students for the "game of life", and the other prepares us for eternal life. In Japan, some of the highest paid jobs are teachers, because they realize the value of education. And lest anyone thinks the cost of education is high, try ignorance.
In summation, this young man is needing to raise approximately $3,600 for the eight days in Alabama for the national competition. So, if you have some spare funds that you could give, what a marvelous investment it will be to this young man and to this community.
On a related note, the 100-year celebration glass was won by Lion Thomas Taylor, whose name was drawn last week but he was not present. The eight names drawn, but not present, were: Renee Dove, Jon Giddings, Barrett Corsini, ShaVon McClanathan, Philip Wright, Jill Moore, Alicia Dudley, and David Fetgatter. We're still looking for a few more good men and women to enter their names in the drawing. "WE SERVE".