Neha Sharma, a junior at Hicksville High School, recently won first place in Nassau County in the 2009- 10 High School Oratorical Contest sponsored by the American Legion.

Sharma delivered the required nine-minute speech on the mandated topic "How and Why the U.S. Constitution Was Written."

"Speaking has always been natural to me," said Sharma, 16, who won a $300 savings bond. "I love being able to stand in front of a room and educate people."

Sharma said her speech - which had to be memorized - addressed how factors such as the failure of the Articles of Confederation sparked the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Students were judged on content, delivery style, voice and diction.

Sharma said she believes that avoiding a "rehearsed" style set her apart from the competition.

"I had a general knowledge of the topic," said Sharma, noting that confidence is the key to being a good public speaker. "If you're nervous, don't let it show. And speak loud."

Sharma is a member of her school's student government, ecology club, Spanish Club, and Spanish, Math and National Honor societies. She is also part of Natural Helpers, a club that mentors younger students.

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