If they gave an exam for humor, Mackenzie Anderson would ace it.
Her speech, "Being Small," touched on the humiliation of PE basketball and the indignity of having to change seats in the movie theater.
But it was the FishHawk Creek fourth-grader's delivery that had Hillsborough County School Board members grinning and applauding Tuesday evening.
"My mom is short and people think she's a lot younger than she really is," Mackenzie said. Pause, lower the voice. "And trust me, she isn't that young!"
Mackenzie, who won her age category in this year's 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking contest, was among dozens of athletes, educators and administrators recognized by the board in its awards meeting Tuesday.
She was followed by fifth-grade winner John David Thompson of Lewis Elementary School, who made his father the foil of his speech about a family vacation.
The family had wanted to see the Grand Canyon, he said, and Dad found the least expensive route was to fly into Las Vegas.
"Now, most of you parents out there are probably thinking, 'What kind of parent would take their 10-year-old boy to Las Vegas?' " John said, breaking into a devilish grin. "I just told you, a cheap one."
The board also honored elementary science contest winners, middle and high school sports teams, teen artists who produced posters about college readiness, and a group of newly named National Board Certified Teachers.
Recognition meetings happen about once a month, providing a break from the usual fare of budget discussions and policy debates. Recent meetings have been especially tense, with the public offering opposing views on whether an Islamic advocacy group should be allowed to lecture high school students.
Tuesday, by contrast, was all about accomplishment.
Congratulations went to high schools with graduation rates over 90 percent: Newsome, Steinbrenner, Riverview, Plant, Tampa Bay Technical, Durant, Alonso, Bloomingdale, Sickles, Plant City, Lennard, Wharton and Chamberlain.
And an entire school — Orange Grove Middle Magnet — was recognized for being named an exemplary school by the Arts Schools Network, one of only four schools nationwide to receive that distinction this year.
Orange Grove is working with artists on a ceramic mural for the school, and principal Scott Rudes acknowledged the school is still raising money to cover the $12,000 cost.
"Send those checks in now," board member Jack Lamb said.
The board's next scheduled recognition meeting is April 3.
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]