Salvation Army youth bring home awards for Star Search


Local children attending community programming at the Salvation Army of Scioto County recently traveled to Dayton to compete in a music and drama competition known as Star Search.

Star Search is an event organized by Salvation Army International, where musical and drama selections are chosen by leaders in New York and then various regions compete and move up, depending on age.

“Every December or January, they come out with this information, and you get the music, download it, and start practicing with your group. The same with drama, but you get a monologue,” Major Mistie Simco, co-commanding officer of the Salvation Army of Scioto County explained. “Depending on what age you are, you fall into categories: level one, level two, or level three. Your options depend on your level. You then go and compete with these selections.”

The event is held every year and the Salvation Army of Scioto County took several kids this month and brought home awards and honors.

“Every Salvation Army in southwest Ohio and northeast Kentucky get a chance to compete. It is usually in Dayton, Ohio,” Simco said. “There are some required elements; they tell us what music to practice. We perform them and get graded and scored. If you make one of the top three scores, you get an award.”

The Salvation Army of Scioto County traveled with 13 children, ages seven-14, to compete. They placed third in junior concerts and brought home more than that.

“All of the kids sang, and we got third place for that. We had a vocal solo, Brenda Damron, who placed second in her division, and we had Jenni Covarrubias, who is the cutest little thing, who received first-place drama,” Simco told the Times. “We came home with three trophies!”

The music and drama program is only one program for youth that the Salvation Army of Scioto County offers out of many. All of which are funded through donations and fundraising activities. Simco finds the program to be important, though, because of the impact it has on the children’s development.

“Jenni would have been the last person I ever would have expected to want to do a drama. She is so shy and has a speech impediment. Well, we gave her the opportunity and showed her what her options were, the selections for her level, and she really wanted to do the monologue,” Simco recalled. “We worked with her every week and she took it home to practice. By the end of March, she had it memorized and really wanted to do it. I could not believe she stepped up in front of this crowd, in Old Testament attire, and performed this monologue the way that she did. She really came out of her shell; it was almost as if she were not Jenni. She got up there and gave it her all and then stepped off the stage and didn’t say another word. She just shined.”

Simco said it is common for children to find hobbies and talents like music and drama and come away from them with better communication and people skills, which is a major benefit of these programs.

“While I worked with many of the kids on music, Jane, our emergency assistance provider worked with Jenni every week. When Jenni made it back, she went right up to Jane and said, ‘look, aren’t you proud of me?’ and Jane told her how proud of her she was,” Simco said. “Her confidence was amazing, and she overcame a barrier. She actually used her speech impediment to her advantage in her performance, instead of letting it bring her down. She won the crowd over and we are so proud of her first-place win.”

Simco explained that, if the kids were older, they would have qualified for a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania to continue their competition, but the youth who placed this year were too young. According to Simco, those who placed this year will be eligible to compete further in the future, depending on their outcomes in those competitions. Until then, they are just admiring their trophies at their home location.

“I’m a musician and I think music and drama really build confidence. It is important, which is why we build it into our programming,” Simco said. “For example, we have one little boy who is only 14 who has been playing cornet for only a year. He went and got scored and did incredibly well for someone only practicing for a year. So, these competitions build confidence and instill a skill that they will carry in the future. It gives hope and shows them they’re capable of achieving things like this that they wouldn’t otherwise have if someone didn’t put an instrument in their hands or give them some music. I am so proud of all our kids, especially Jenni, for doing so well in the Star Search this year.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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