Two local students who showed off their singing voices before a small, but enthusiastic crowd at Pennsylvania College of Technology's Klump Auditorium took top honors in the Williamsport's Got Talent contest Saturday night.
The first place winner, Alexis Griess, and runner-up Ariana Pamphile, were among 11 young people who took part in the competition.
Griess, an eighth grader at St. John Neumann High School, and Pamphile, a sixth grader at Lycoming Valley Intermediate School, both grabbed nearly perfect scores.
A Williamsport's Got Talent show was held Saturday at the Klump Academic Center at Pennsylvania College of Technology. The show was created to give kids something productive to participate in instead of getting caught up in trouble. Above, Allan Gallup sings an original song.
It was only after the judges later huddled and broke the tie that Griess was declared the winner.
"This was hard," said Warren Earl, of WXPI Community Radio, who served as a judge. "We had to make a judgment call."
But Earl made it clear that there were no losers in the talent show.
The event was sponsored by the Williamsport-Lycoming County Crime Commission, First Church Elite AAU Basketball League and WPXI Williamsport. Proceeds from the program go to the Crime Commission and the basketball league.
Officials said the event is a means of supporting area youth while showcasing their talents.
Earl noted that every 20 seconds in America a kid drops out of school.
"When a kid makes a first bad decision, it has a domino effect," he said. "These kids need our support."
Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, and Tonya Anderson, an administrative aide with Mirabito's office, also served as judges.
Campana said the community needs to work together to ensure youths don't commit crimes.
"These kids," Mirabito added, "have a dream about doing something.
The contest mimicked the long-running television show American Idol, with judges talking directly to participants following their performances.
Maya Trump, a fifth grader at Curtin Intermediate School, performed a dance routine. All other contestants sang.
Pamphile wowed the crowd with her rendition of Etta James's "At Last."
"You have an outstanding voice," Earl said. "You are on your way to being a singer."
Campana was prompted to comment, "And that voice came from that body?"
Added Anderson: "You are naturally gifted."
But the judges were equally impressed with Griess.
"You made this a competition," Earl told her.
Mirabito commented that Griess had "presence" while Anderson said, "You gave me chills."
Each of the contestants were praised for their performances and most were advised about how they might improve upon their talents.
Ciaran Chestnut-Stokes, a third grade student at Jackson Elementary School, was the youngest participant, but showed no signs of being afraid to take the stage.
"Isn't that something for 9 years old?" Campana said.
Other contestants were: Annisa Jones, Williamsport Middle School; Javona Bateman, ninth grade, Williamsport Area High School; Olivia Miller, seventh grade, Williamsport Area Middle School; Alan Gallup, twelfth grade, Williamsport Area High School; Tyasia Young, eighth grade, Williamsport Area High School; Alexis Jenkins, ninth grade, Augora Cyber Charter School; and Kassie Jenkins, eighth grade, Agora Cyber Charter School.