A Hilliard Heritage Middle School eighth-grader recently earned $3,500 in college scholarships as state champion in the Optimist International Oratorical Contest.
Durya Nadeem won the contest May 10 at Embassy Suites Hotel in Dublin, earning a $2,500 college scholarship from the Optimist Club International and a $1,000 scholarship from the Ohio district of the Optimist Club.
"She is a tremendous young lady," said Dawn Sayre, principal of Heritage Middle School.
Nadeem competed against five other regional finalists in grades 6-12, besting some students significantly older than she, Sayre said.
Sayre credits Pam Antos, a language-arts teacher at the McVey Innovate Learning Center and coach of the district's Oratorical Club, with preparing Nadeem for the contest.
In December, Nadeem received the speech topic on which all students were assessed, which is how one's passion can affect the world.
Nadeem wrote a speech and honed it with Antos, crafting it to meet the five-minute limit.
"Durya called me just before the contest and asked if she could speak at (a Heritage) staff meeting," Sayre said. "You won't find too many students who would ask to speak to a roomful of teachers.
"It is a very moving speech."
Nadeem said she spoke about her passion for people in the world to "celebrate their similarities" while "accepting their differences."
"My parents told me to always accept people for who they are (and) my brothers and sisters have always been very supportive of me, too," Nadeem said.
Nadeem said competing and winning in the state competition has given her greater confidence as a public speaker and a student.
Nadeem will attend Darby High School, where she said she plans to enroll in Advanced Placement classes.
As for her career plans, "I want to be in the medical field," she said, perhaps in internal medicine or as a critical-care specialist.