Centralia College Student Earns State Championship in Second College Speech Contest


Tony Messineo, a Centralia College student and Pierce County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant, was named grand champion of the second-annual Statewide Inspirational Speech Championship. The event was hosted in Centralia last weekend.

According to a news release from event’s organizers, Messineo’s winning speech — titled “An American Hero” — was about Army Sergeant Matthew Watters, a bomb technician for the Tacoma Police Department who served in the Iraq War and whose leg was blown off by a grenade. Claire Smith, a student at Whatcom Community College, was the runner up and spoke about forgiveness in her speech entitled “Forgiveness For Those Not Sorry.”

“I’m really grateful that the administrators at Centralia College support this event. At a community college, we get students from all walks of life, and so many of them have battled through adversity — or know someone who has — and they have great stories to tell,” Messineo said in a statement.

Messineo served in the U.S. Marine Corps and has 21 years of experience in law enforcement. He’s working toward his bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The event is the de facto speech championship for all 34 community colleges in the state, and it was held on Saturday at the TransAlta Commons building on the Centralia College campus.

All community colleges in the state are welcome to audition their top two public speakers for the event. Judges for the event narrow the field of submissions down to the top five for this culminating event.

The three judges who scored the finalists this year were Marcus Glasper, director of the Washington State Lottery; professor Luke Williams, of Central Washington University; and Mike Leonard, director of community engagement for United Way of Thurston County.

The students who competed were Messineo, Smith, Lauren Burnett, of Centralia College, Analise Norton, of Spokane Falls Community College, and Sidney Neil, of Bellevue College.

The rules of the competition were fairly straightforward: Competitors delivered an inspirational speech not to exceed 15 minutes to the judges. They were scored based on their credibility, emotion, logic, charisma, speaking technique and their overall call to value and inspiration.

“All five students performed exceptionally and took home nice glass plaques from Awards West with their name atop, and ‘Top 5 in State’ underneath. Additionally, Tony Messineo took home an extra large plaque with ‘State Champion’ atop it and his name below,” read the event news release.

A recording of the competition can be found online on the Centralia College’s YouTube channel: bit.ly/2TKfBtz.