Shelton student wins regional American Legion contest

Gajaan Sittanbalam, a senior at Shelton High School, won first place in the 77th annual American Legion Oratorical Contest for the Third District.

Contestants presented an original oration on the U.S. Constitution that was up to 10 minutes long, and an oration on an assigned topic up to five minutes long.

The competition took place Feb. 9 at the Fairfield Public Library. The American Legion’s Third District service area includes Fairfield County.

Third District Commander David Bissonnette said the contestants were the nation’s leaders of tomorrow and were a credit to their parents and schools.

Gajaan now will compete in the veterans organization’s statewide contest on Saturday, March 1 at Goodwin College in East Hartford.

National competition, scholarships

The state winner from Connecticut then will compete in the national contest from April 4 to 6 at the University of Indiana Conference Center in Indianapolis. Winners from all 50 states and four foreign American Legion groups will participate in Indiana.

The national contest winner gets an $18,000 scholarship. Second place takes home $16,000, and third gets $14,000.

Each state winner who participates in the national contest’s first round receives a $1,500 scholarship. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $1,500 scholarship.

The national American Legion awards the scholarships, which can be used at any college or university in the United States. The American Legion is an organization of military veterans.

Other winners and judges

In the Third District competition, second place went to Peter O’Donnell, a junior at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, and third place went to Hailey Pekera, a senior at Trumbull High School.

Serving as judges were Daniel F. Caruso, Fairfield probate judge; Richard Felner, Fairfield fire chief; Carole Frawley, a teacher at Fairfield Woods Middle School; Nancy Hovanec, a teacher at Wintergreen School in Hamden; and Tony Hwang, a state representative from Fairfield.

Serving as an alternate judge was Cristin McCarthy Vahey, a selectman in Fairfield.