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Finding a Voice

by Zac Godwin

Jose Manuel Galarza finds a place in college through the spoken word.

Starting college can be a daunting experience. Meeting new people and balancing one’s workload with other obligations are difficult for any student. For students fresh out of high school especially, the challenges of college can seem insurmountable. But students can face these new challenges and succeed in this intimidating environment.

Take Jose Manuel Galarza Jr. as an example. Galarza is an early admission student at RACC, and, at only 16, he placed first in one of the categories in the 2016 Norton Anthology Student Recitation Contest, a national poetry-recitation competition that was held during the fall semester.

Galarza read the poem “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar for the competition.

He confessed to entering the contest almost on a whim.

“I was thinking I’d do it just for fun,” Galarza explained. “Because I was going to be competing against these college kids, [I thought I was] out of my league. Ultimately, I just gave it my best go.”

For the contest, Galarza recorded himself reading one of the four poems supplied by The Norton Anthology. Galarza chose his poem because it was relatable and it spoke to him in a special way.

“It was a unique style. [“Sympathy” is] a very unique approach to poetry,” Galarza said.

One of the most important aspects of the competition was the presentation.

“I spent a few weeks looking over the poem,” Galarza said. “I learned the poem and I tried to figure out how I would present it. Presentation is as important as getting the words right.”

Winning this competition was no small feat. College students from all around the nation submitted videos of themselves reading poetry, each using personal experience and interpretation to interpret a poem. Many of these students were much older than Galarza, but the age gap didn’t deter him.

Winning the contest has given Galarza confidence, but the recognition has not gone to his head. He is excited to continue his education in the computer sciences, while simultaneously entering more contests to gain more experience as a public speaker.

“I’ll continue to do these speech events. It shows me that as long as I give it my all, and I’m really passionate, I can succeed,” he predicted. “Good things will always come out of it.”

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