manassas journal messenger 01/15/01



January 15, 2001




dream realized: Gar-Field student to wow crowd at today’s 11th annual Youth

Oratorical Contest


Tiffany Schwab





Latoya Harris had some tough competition going into one of the final

rounds of judging for the 11th annual Youth Oratorical Contest.

The other girl from Gar-Field High School hoping to make the cut had

a great speech and had worked just as hard as Latoya.

In fact, she knew her competitor quite well. It was Latasha Harris,

her twin sister.

“I can honestly say we have been competing our whole lives,”

Latoya said. But, “We both were determined to have it,” she said

of winning. “It was hard.”

The girls encouraged each other, though, and Latasha will cheer on her

sister today as she performs her speech in front of an anticipated crowd

of 3,000 at the Hylton Chapel.

Latoya is one of three high school finalists, out of an initial crowd

of about 100 students competing to be in the contest.

On an average day, she is a typical 11th-grader, playing clarinet in

marching band and pep band, acting with the drama club and singing in her

church choir.

But, when she turns to speech mode, she changes. No longer is she the

tall, thin 17-year-old who talks fast when she’s nervous.

No. In speech mode she is calm.

“When you think you have something important to say, then the nerves

just go away,” she explained.

She transforms from a teenager into a commanding presence. She owns

the room and all eyes are on her, and her eyes are on all.

She forms each word with confidence, never stumbling.

Latoya has been practicing her speech for months, working with sponsor

Paulette Jones to get everything down pat.

“We fought a lot with the word turmoil,”

Jones said. “I wanted to hear the ‘oil’ in turmoil.”

Jones said students are not just expected to get up on stage and read

their speech, but memorize seven to 10 minutes of oratory, using their entire

bodies to convey what they are saying, punctuating their words with gestures

and engaging the audience with eye contact.

When Latoya talks about a dream sagging like a heavy load, she correspondingly

slumps her shoulders. When she quotes the Negro Mother, she deepens her

voice, projecting loud and clear.

Her principal, Roger Dallek, said she personalized her speech and as

far as he’s concerned, she’s already a winner.

“This to me is what takes something to a higher level,” he

said of her presentation.

Latoya said she decided to try out for the contest after hearing about

it on Gar-Field’s announcements.

“I talked about it with my family and we all agreed it would be

a great thing to get into,” she said.

She reviewed the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, from which

the theme of the contest, “A Dream Deferred,” was derived. Then,

she decided what aspects she wanted to bring out, and wove those in with

historical references, other quotations and even a song.

“I thought about my own personal experiences and incorporated what

you see throughout life,” she said. “You see people with so many

abilities and talents, but they’re afraid to get up there,” and share

them with the world.

One line from “Harlem” asks of a dream deferred, “Do

you allow it to just settle and do nothing about it?”

Latoya said, no. Instead, people should tell their dreams to the world,

she said. “Once we start to do that, then our dreams will blossom to

their true potential.”

Her inspiration for her speech was the man around whom today’s celebration

is centered – Martin Luther King.

He is a prime example of a man who decided to step out on faith and

share his dream, she said.

“He wanted everyone to have equality and freedom,” she said.

“It’s not just for black people, it’s for all people.”

Jones said the contest does more than develop students’ speaking skills.

“These students are empowered,” she said. Then, she added

to Latoya, “If we listen to you people, we old folks learn a lot.”

Latoya said she has received much support from her parents and siblings

and even from her peers.

“The encouragement from your peers is always good,” she noted.

Her personal dreams for the future include graduating from Gar-Field

with an International Baccalaureate diploma and hopefully attending Florida

Agricultural and Mechanical University, where she is thinking of majoring

in communications and speech.

After graduation, work with the United Nations is sounding like something

she wants to do, Latoya said.

A more immediate dream is sweeping up the best performance category

at the contest.

· Contact Tiffany Schwab at [email protected]




hunting accidents were 2 of 47 in Va.


Chris Newman




There were 47 hunting accidents in Virginia last year through Jan. 8,

2001, four of which were fatalities, and two were nonfatal incidents in

Prince William County.

Deer hunting season ended Jan. 6.

An 11-year-old boy hunting with his father Dec. 2 shot at a deer while

his father was unseen behind it, on land across the street from the Manassas

Park Virginia Railway Express Station in Prince William County, game officials


“He couldn’t see his father. He didn’t realize he was coming, and

his father was sort of in the line of fire,” said game warden Randy

Grauer. “A shotgun pellet ricocheted off a tree.”

The pellet caused a minor injury to the father’s shoulder, Grauer said.

Both were wearing blaze orange vests, which is required during firearms

deer season, said Julia Dixon Smith, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department

of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“Sadly, 75 percent of the fatal incidents involve the shooter failing

to identify the target or beyond the target,” Smith said.

Grauer said the other accident in the county occurred off Route 234

in Catharpin last month due to gun mishandling. In heavy rain, a hunter

was trying to keep the inside of his in-line rifle dry when he pulled back

on the spring-loaded bolt and then attempted to put it back in place.

The bolt slipped out of his fingers and the shot went through his foot

and boot into the ground.

He had been attempting to keep rain out of the barrel by resting it

on his boot, Grauer said. The hunter and his friend were able to run back

to their vehicle and use a cell phone to call for help, he said.

Smith said two of the state’s fatalities last year involved the shooter

failing to identify his target. In one case, the hunter was trailing a deer

that had been shot, and the victim was walking toward the hunter, who reacted

to the movement and fired, she said.

Of the other two deaths, one was caused by a gun going off while being

stowed, and the other was self-inflicted after a hunter’s gun, possibly

in a sling, discharged into the back of his leg and he bled to death in

the woods, Smith said.

The majority of Virginia’s 300,000 hunters have no problems in the field,

Smith said, but they should know how to prevent accidents.

The three basic rules to firearms:

· Treat every firearm as if it were loaded

· Control the direction of the gun muzzle

· Clearly identify your target and what is beyond it

Hunters are also injured in falls from tree stands, Smith said. The

rules for stands:

· Use a harness or safety belt to secure yourself to the tree

· Use a haul line to get your unloaded gun or bow into and out

of the tree stand. Never climb with equipment.

· Keep portable tree stands in good working order and inspect

before using

· Stay awake. If you start to nod off, get to the ground

People hunt throughout Prince William, Grauer said, but the hunting

is mostly concentrated in Nokesville, Haymarket and Gainesville areas out

toward Bull Run Mountain.

Even small patches of woods draw hunters, he said, as deer travel through

stream valleys that wind through neighborhoods; bow hunters are common there.

Smith and Grauer said hunters should be cognizant of their isolation

and be prepared for accidents: A cell phone or radio is a good idea, and

survival techniques may be needed if a hunter gets lost and has to spend

the night in the woods.

Game wardens assist hunters in accidents, but they also monitor for


Hunting at night, on Sunday, on private property or taking too many

or killing a doe on days not allowed is illegal, said Smith. “That

person is stealing wildlife.”

Last year through Oct. 31 there were 3,000 hunting violation arrests

in Virginia, Smith said. Persons can tip officials to poaching by calling

(800) 237-5712 or local police.

The bag limit in Prince William is two per day and one deer must not

have antlers, Smith said.

“Poaching is always going on, that’s what we’re out there looking

for,” Grauer said.

· Contact Chris Newman at [email protected].


advocates sought for new program


Tiffany Schwab




PRINCE WILLIAM- The search is on for adult volunteers willing to donate

their time as educational advocates for chronically truant students.

Through the Greater Prince William County Court Appointed Educational

Advocate program, volunteers will work to get truant students back to school

and on their way to achieving an education.

The program is an arm of CASA, the Court Appointed Special Advocate


CASA executive director Charlyn Hasson-Brown said the program is a direct

result of changes in the state’s truancy law.

The law requires attendance officers to take students to court after

they have had seven consecutive unexcused absences.

Hasson-Brown said the court had trouble handling the number of truancy

cases going through the system, so judges along with the Prince William

County school system asked CASA for help.

That’s where the volunteers come in.

The role as advocate is a positive one for the child, Hasson-Brown said.

The advocates will mentor and tutor their students as needed and work with

them one-on-one, “to really make sure the child has the best hope for

the future.”

The first orientation for the Greater Prince William County Court Appointed

Educational Advocate program is scheduled for Feb. 20, said CASA volunteer

Jim French.

Overall, volunteers receive 20 hours of training and are asked to commit

to one year of service. French said the group is looking for people with

high school diplomas or college educations. The only other requirement is

being able to pass a background check done by police, social services and

the department of motor vehicles, he said.

Of course, the volunteers must value education, he added.

“You have to have a strong belief in the value of an education

for a child,” French said.

Hasson-Brown said a judge will assign each educational advocate volunteer

to a specific truant student.

CASA will train volunteers how to assess children and their family situation,

finding possible reasons why a student is skipping school.

She said the reasons can vary. Sometimes students don’t have the proper

clothing and don’t want to go to school. Health could also be a factor.

In that case, the advocate might suggest vision or hearing screenings, she


Or, “It could be that the parent does not encourage school attendance,”

she said.

Volunteers also will help to arrange for services for the child or family

if necessary, Hasson-Brown said.

French added that volunteers will be required to appear before judges

and write reports for the court. The training session teaches volunteers

how to write those reports, how the court works and reviews the state’s

truancy law and the school division’s truancy policy.

Volunteers will learn how to recognize abuse and neglect, which could

be leading to the student’s truancy, he said.

French said the time commitment is generally two to five hours per week,

but can fluctuate depending on the child’s particular case.

For more information, or to sign on as a volunteer, call (703) 330-8145,

or e-mail [email protected].

· Contact Tiffany Schwab at [email protected]



bill targets drivers using cell phones


Kate Bissell




Of all the factors that cause car accidents, perhaps the most common is

simply distracted drivers – a point that led lawmakers to introduce

two bills in the General Assembly session prohibiting the use of cellular

phones while driving.

Drivers chatting on cell phones may be poster children for distracted

drivers, but everyday acts like reading a map, changing a radio station

or dealing with children in the back seat can just as easily lead to a crash.

Last year, “driver inattention” was cited as the cause of almost

a quarter of accidents in which a violation was found, according to statewide

statistics from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

But the numbers are likely an underestimate, said Sgt. Steve Reed, head

of the Accident Investigation Unit of the Prince William police.

Police can’t ticket drivers for “inattention,” so when officers

fill out accident reports, they often mark an actual violation – such as

failure to give right of way – as the cause of the crash, even if driver

inattention led to the violation.

“It’s probably a bigger problem than our data reflects. I see very

few [driver inattention boxes] marked on accident reports but when you read

them you see [it’s responsible] for a lot of accidents,” Reed said.

Police fill out a uniform accident report used across the state in which

a number of boxes can be checked to explain the cause of an accident.

“Driver inattention” is a choice they can mark but in many

cases, officers check a box for a traffic violation and explain why the

violation occurred in side notes. The notes are not factored into DMV statistics.

But while distractions may be a proven cause of accidents, both drivers

and police say the most common sources of distraction on the road aren’t

cell phones.

The number one cause of distraction for drivers is tuning the radio,

followed by eating or drinking in the car and talking to passengers, according

to a 1999 survey of drivers conducted by the American Automobile Association.

Using a cell phone ranked fifth in the survey.

Police said the biggest cause of distraction-induced accidents is drivers

who simply look away while traveling in gridlocked traffic.

“We have a ton of those, when people just look away in stop-and-go

traffic and don’t realize the car in front of them has stopped. Cell phone

problems are more prevalent on interstates,” Reed said.

One bill introduced in General Assembly aims to prohibit drivers from

using cell phones while their cars are in motion and another only prohibits

the use of cell phones while drivers are turning onto or off a highway.

The first bill was sent for review by the Militia and Police Committee

and the other sent to the Committee on Transportation.




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