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May 26, 2015



Back Row (L-R): Anthony Glover, Jonte John, Ellianna Bunsie, Josiah Webb, Blake Small, Hezekiah Rodgers, Noble Pryor, and Joshua Hawkins.

Front Row (L-R): Karina Norton, Taylor Underwood, Marshonna Gunn, and Taji Steele.

It was a great showing for Newton High School’s Literary Team in 2015. After winning their first regional competition ever, the entire team moved on to the state competition, where several Newton High School students brought home awards and recognition.  Members of the Newton High School 2015 Literary Team include: Hezekiah Rodgers, Karina Norton, Blake Small, Marshonna Gunn, Jonte John, Taji Steele, Anthony Glover, Taylor Underwood, Ellianna Bunsie, Noble Pryor, Joshua Hawkins, and Josiah Webb.

According to Newton High School Literary Team advisor, Mrs. Tawana Bellamy, the competition is comprised of six areas: dramatic interpretation (boys and girls), essay (boys and girls), extemporaneous speaking (boys and girls), solo (boys and girls), boys quartet, and girls trio.

Dramatic Interpretation contests involve the communication of prose, poetry, and/or dramatic literature. Contestants are judged on how well they communicate the author’s meaning to the audience—specifically on selection of material, communication skills, vocal technique, and visible technique.

In the Essay competition, contestants are provided with topics on which to write—three from current events and three from literature. The students must complete their essays in a two-hour timeframe. Judges score the students on thought development, order and arrangement, and elements of style.

The Extemporaneous Speaking contest is a speaking contest in which students are provided a selection of topics on national and international issues that have been discussed in periodicals since September 1 of the current year. The contestants are judged on analysis of topic, organizational skills, logical support, language skills, and delivery.

And finally, the musical competitions include, Boys Quartet, Girls Trio, and Boys and Girls Solo.  Both quartet and trio require that two selections be sung from memory. All three singing competitions are judged on accuracy, tone, diction, rhythm, phrasing, interpretation, and presentation.

As regional champions, the entire Newton High School Literary Team moved on to the State Championships.

“All of our vocalists went to state and each placed seventh,” said Bellamy. “This was a great learning experience for us and for them. The competition was amazing. The vocalists we were up against were very experienced and well-trained. We had the only group with ninth-grade vocalists, so we have a lot of room to grow. There is no comparison between a twelfth-grade vocalist and a ninth-grade vocalist. I am excited to see what our vocalists do next year since they will be another year older!”

Newton High participants also fared well in the Extemporaneous Speaking competition, with Blake Small winning fifth place in the boys competition and Marshonna Gunn taking home seventh place in the girls contest.

“This is an incredibly difficult competition,” said Bellamy. “The students are given a topic and only thirty minutes to prepare a well-researched speech. They have to cite sources and are not allowed to use the internet, so they must have a vast amount of knowledge going into it or have a lot of saved documents they bring with them. Then they are only given seven minutes to speak.”

Newton’s two dramatic interpretation contestants were also very successful at the state competition, with Jonte John taking fifth place in the boys contest and Taji Steele winning third place in the girls contest.

“Jonte and Taji had to choose a piece of literature to present in less than ten minutes,” explained Bellamy. “It must be memorized and rehearsed—but not a monologue. They are required to have various characters and use different voices and postures to differentiate those characters.”

Not to be outdone, Karina Norton, also made an excellent impression on the judges at State, as she took home the sixth-place award in Girls Essay.  

“This was the first year Newton High School had an entire team advance to state,” said Bellamy, who praised Mrs. Akeelah McTier, Mr. Michael Davis and Dr. Amy Fanusi for also taking time to serve as Literary Team advisors. “We look forward to having a full team each year and moving up in the state competition. This was a great year for learning and growth in our program.”

“Newton High School has the most creative and intelligent students in the country” said Principal John Ellenberg. “I am very proud of the literary team’s accomplishments this year and look forward to many more outstanding performances in the future.”  

For more information, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County School System, at