Lompoc High School junior Erin McCallon took the top prize in this year’s Speech Trek contest put on by the Lompoc-Vandenberg branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

Seven local high school students participated in the competition, in which they were each judged on speeches given before a panel Jan. 26 at Lompoc City Hall.

For her first-place finish, McCallon was awarded $200, and a video of her speech will be sent to be considered in the AAUW’s California statewide contest.

State-level judges will then assess all the videos sent by AAUW branches and determine the top five speeches from throughout the state. If McCallon places in the top three of the state contest, she will be invited to the AAUW’s annual state convention in Irvine on April 28 to compete for a first-place prize of $1,500, second-place prize of $1,000, or third-place prize of $500.

Although the fourth- and fifth-place state finalists aren’t invited to the convention, they will be awarded $250 and $150, respectively, along with certificates of participation.

At the local competition, the seven students presented speeches to a panel of judges and an audience of community members at the Lompoc City Council Chambers. Their topic was: “How Can We Stand Up to Sexism? What can individuals and organizations such as AAUW do to break down stereotypes and biases in school, at work, in the military and in our communities?”

After McCallon, the second-place prize of $150 went to Cabrillo High School student Sarah Nameh, and Matthew Welch, from Lompoc High, finished third and received a $100 award.

The other contestants, who each received certificates of completion, included: Alfonso Alatorre (Maple High), Deeanna Torres (Maple High), Allison Sylvester (Lompoc High) and Angel Vazquez (Lompoc High).

The cash awards were contributed by community sponsors, and the local AAUW membership, according to AAUW.

The judging panel for the local contest included Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl and community members Nora Wallace, Barbara Bennie, Mischa Dalcerri and Deb Willems. They followed the instructions, rules and ballot scoring tools presented by AAUW California.

For more information on the Speech Trek competition, email pamelajoybuchanan@icloud.com or call 588-2916. Those interested in AAUW membership, which is open to all genders with an associate degree or higher, are advised to contact Elena Jones at edavey@hotmail.com.

This report was prepared by Willis Jacobson. He can be reached at wjacobson@leecentralcoastnews.com.