The State Beta Club Convention is an opportunity for Beta Club members from around the state to gather for fellowship, friendly competition and sharing of ideas and talents. Yet, it is so much more. For the past seventy-five years, the National Beta Club out of Spartanburg, SC has worked with state organizations to provide inspirational, motivational and educational experiences to students and sponsors across the United States. In the course of two to three days, the opportunity for students to be changed forever by the programs this organization provides is unlimited. To better understand what the state convention is all about, one must be aware of all the events which take place at this time.
The State Beta Club Convention actually begins months before. Students who decide they want to attend and participate in the activities begin brushing up on their particular skills or talents. They may decide to try one of the many academic competitions that are held on the Friday of the convention. Each school may have one entrant for each of these competitions. The categories are English, Math, Social Studies, Science, Creative Writing, and Spelling. All of these (accept Creative Writing) are comprehensive tests covering many different fields of study. Science, for example, may have questions about chemistry, physics, environmental science, biology, or human anatomy. Math will have algebra, geometry, calculus and trigonometry questions. Creative Writing is the exception. It is an extemporaneous essay based on a topic provided by the coordinator of the event. Another competition that a student may enter is Oratory. This competition requires that the student memorizes a four minute speech to share before a small audience of students, sponsors, parents and judges. The winning speaker addresses the entire assembly at the awards ceremony on Saturday night.
First and second place winners of all the competitions receive a prize of $100 to encourage them to compete at the National Convention during the summer. (West Hall Beta Club has had several winners with two winners advancing to the National level. Of those two, one won third place in Social Studies; one won first place in Creative Writing. I have served as the coordinator for the English or the Oratory competitions for the past twenty-five years.)
Another challenge that students may consider many months before the convention is held is to run for state office. The state officers – President, Vice-President, and Secretary – are the masters of ceremony throughout the convention. The motto is “To Lead By Serving Others.” Our state officers are no exception. They work hard with the state sponsors and administrators scheduling the competitions, guest speakers, and coordinators or judges for the events. Students who decide to run for state office must be in the eleventh grade in good academic standing with their schools and in good standing as leaders of their local clubs. Many documented and authenticated forms must be completed and sent well in advance of the convention. Each candidate works with a team from his school to create a well-run campaign that begins on the Friday morning of the convention. On Thursday evening before the convention, all candidates for state office (along with their sponsors) meet with current state officers and state sponsors to review the rules and procedures for the contest. Candidates must provide a copy of the speech that they will give on Friday night to the General Assembly. They must also provide a video of the skit that their club will present at the first General Assembly – an entertaining one minute routine that “sells” the candidates to the audience. In the meantime, candidates are reminded of the strict code of conduct for their campaign and are encouraged to meet and greet as many members attending the convention that they can. Friday night the candidates make a speech before the assembly followed by the campaign skit (which can earn a prize at the award ceremony). Saturday, the candidates reintroduce themselves at the second General Assembly, the election is held, and the new officers are installed on Saturday night at the third General Assembly. Newly elected officers are encouraged to attend the National Convention where they can compete for national office.
A third opportunity for students to compete at the convention is in talent. Many months prior to the event, members decide which talent will be shared at the convention. Talent entries include singing, dancing, and performing arts of all kind. The high quality of talent at the convention dictates that the entrants must work hard to provide an entertaining yet extraordinary endeavor. The first elimination round begins early on Friday morning with competitors – individuals to small groups to large groups – giving their very best performance before a single judge. From that audition, sixteen individuals or groups go on to compete before the entire group at the third General Assembly. Like the other competitions, winners are invited to compete at the National Convention with some of the most talented students from across the nation.
Competition doesn’t stop there. Members can submit art work, compete in art competitions on site, create banners, create posters, and share scrapbooks – both textural or electronic, share web designs for competition and more. In addition the State Convention also hosts an extraordinary academic team event. Quiz Bowl is one of the most interesting and entertaining events at the convention. Starting on Friday, teams from each school work their way through elimination rounds. Those teams that are lucky, or rather skilled, enough move on to quarter finals, to semi-finals and then to the “super bowl of academia” contest. The finals are held during the third General Assembly. It is very exciting and nerve-wracking, and often, the audience is warned to keep quiet as students, teachers, parents and other guests whisper aloud to show they know the answers to the questions. All too often, however, the winners know more than anyone else. It is amazing how challenging the questions are and how quickly these students answer those questions. Like the other events, these competitors are pitted against some of the best minds in the nation at the National Convention.
The State Convention is not just about competition. At each General Assembly inspirational speakers provide motivational experiences that encourage our students to carry out the motto to lead and to serve. Speakers come from around the country and from all walks of life. Sometimes the guests are renowned authors, motivational speakers, and entertaining humorists who share their wit and wisdom with the audience. Other times, the speakers have originated from personal experiences with Beta Club. These amazing people help our students understand and recognize their own potential. Time and again, these speakers share their experience with life, school, hardships, success, pain and growth. Students learn that the goals and expectations they have for themselves can be achieved with determination and desire.
Beta Club students at the convention participate in many other activities. The first General Assembly begins with a parade of flags representing all the schools and clubs across the state. With the presentations of the State Flag and the National Flag in a formal ceremony, the students recite the pledge and sing the National Anthem. Sometimes a representative of the military offers words of inspiration. During the course of the convention, special attention is brought to clubs who have participated in patriotic or charitable acts. Clubs are expected to work with organizations such as the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, etc. Our state project is American Cancer Society. Every year clubs bring contributions raised over the past year to donate to this worthy organization. Every year thousands of dollars are presented to a representative of ACS who reminds our students of the impact these dollars make in improving the lives of people not unlike themselves. Students learn that working to raise money, raise awareness and increase involvement in areas outside their everyday world prepares them for a more fulfilling way of life. Members can learn more about the possible projects for their clubs at the informational learning sessions that are held on Saturday after the second General Assembly.
The culmination of the convention is a talent show and an award ceremony. Students end their time at the convention having met many new friends, experienced many opportunities, and shared a lot of laughs. It is a wonderful time for all who attend.