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Local speaker advances to international competition

Holdridge cracks into ranks of elite speakers and competes on the world stage in August


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rhonda Holdridge said there could be hundreds of competitors at the Toastmasters International Convention in Ohio. Ronda Holdridge has been competing at public speaking events for the past three years.

At the Ambridge Event Center in Portland on Saturday, May 5, Holdridge spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 300 people at the Toastmasters District 7 International Speech Contest, taking first place.

The contest encompasses all of Southwest Washington, most of Oregon and a small part of Northern California. It represents about 170 Toastmasters clubs with more than 3,000 members.

Holdridge’s success follows her previous advancements through contests at the local Columbian Toastmasters #6421 club, the area level, division level and district level. She will now be the only speaker representing the District 7 Toastmasters at the Toastmasters International Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, Aug. 21-24.

Holdridge’s speech, which will be five to seven minutes long, addresses her recent victory over a battle with breast cancer as well as the loss of her mother to cancer three years ago.

“My speech is about how I was able to get through it,” she said. “I speak a lot about the way I was raised in optimism and look at doing what we need to do to get through it and where I received the tools to get through it.”

Last year, Holdridge competed at the same competition just after undergoing extensive tests when she started to feel ill. She didn’t place in the competition, and only four days later was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Holdridge said she knew immediately what her topic would be the following year and believes she would’ve placed in the competition had she been feeling better.

The year prior, Holdridge placed second in the Toastmaster District 7 International Speech Contest.

In order to prepare for the competition in Ohio, Holdridge has been speaking all over Oregon at a variety of clubs as a guest speaker in order to grow more comfortable with speaking in front of an audience. Holdridge is also raising funds to attend the competition.

Holdridge said that competitors will be broken up into 10 groups with the semifinals held Friday, Aug. 23.

“It’s a huge honor,” she said.

Holdridge works as a sales executive at Ticor Title. Her employer pays for her to attend most of her Toastmasters events. “To be able to do my job well, I need to be able to communicate well,” she said. “It’s really made a difference in how I’m presented in the community. You always have to put your best foot forward. Ticor helps me do that. It’s necessary for everyone who deals with customers.”