Dodson, a senior homeschool student, won the state contest Saturday in Perry, where she beat out three of her peers from across the state. She made it to the national contest last year, but lost in the first round of competition. Dodson hopes to make it to the top this year, her last year competing.
A resident of Fayetteville, Dodson was unable to find a local chapter to compete with, so Post 304 in Acworth adopted her and supported Dodson as she swept the Post, District and Regional competitions.
The American Legion Oratorical Competition is a more than 75-year-old annual event in which high schoolers across the country write and memorize various speeches based on the Constitution and a number of its amendments.
Dodson has been working on her speeches for months, reciting them in front of her peers and scrutinizing each word she prepares to deliver.
The intense oratorical competitions require contestants to speak from memory without microphones, lecterns or notes, and Dodson said the competitions can be quite nerve-wracking.
“It was an incredibly close competition and such a great experience,” Dodson said after Saturday’s competition.
She credits her steady nerves to her strong sense of faith, and reads Scripture in the waiting room before each competition.
Ron Mazzola, the senior vice commander of Post 304 in Acworth, said he was impressed with Dodson’s speaking abilities.
“She’s got an ability to reach out to the audience. She acts like they are involved with her. She is very comfortable and warm, and carries her message straight to the person and makes them feel a part of what she is doing,” Mazzola said.
He hopes he can convince another member of his post to attend the national contest in Indiana with him, so the two can cheer Dodson on.
As the state representative, Dodson will compete with 54 other people from each of the country’s states and territories April 4 to 6. The first place winner at the national competition walks away with $18,000, second place $16,000 and third place with $14,000, Mazzola said. Dodson has won more than $1,000 in prize money in local competitions this year.