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Five partake in Rotary Speech contest
• Kylee Labaco wins first place, advances to Area 12 contest
2023 Ceres Rotary Speech contestants
Rotary Speech Contestants were: (left to right): Whitmore Charter High School sophomore Kylee Labaco (first place), Whitmore Charter High School freshman Ishanvi Verma (third place), Central Valley High School junior Hannah Methvin (second place), Endeavor High School junior Adrian Valdovinos Villa (honorable mention), and Ceres High School junior Andrea Rodriguez (honorable mention). - photo by Jeff Benziger

Five students attending high schools in Ceres participated in Friday’s speech contest hosted by the Ceres Rotary Club, reflecting on the theme of “Imagine Peace on Earth.”

Members listened to the speeches at Friday’s meeting held at the Ceres Unified School District headquarters.

Each year Rotary clubs around the world hold the contest, which is intended to benefit high school age youth. The specific goals of the contest are to:

• Acquaint a large number of youth with Rotary and the Four-Way Test;

• Demonstrate and enhance Rotary’s Commitment to youth;

• Heighten awareness of Rotary among youth, parents, schools and community

• Recognize, encourage and reward hard work and accomplishment among youth.

Participating students were to incorporate the 2022-23 Rotary International Presidential theme of Imagine Rotary - Imagine Peace on Earth to guide their presentations. The speeches were to include how Rotarians and Rotary Clubs make an impact both locally and globally, and touch on their own personal goals and commitment to community.

Each student was judged on the basis of personal qualities, such as appearance, poise and personalit; on organization, presentation and effectiveness.

Kylee Labaco, a sophomore attending Whitmore Charter High School, won first place and $125. She moves on to the Area 12 contest at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8, at CUSD headquarters. The winner of the Area 12 round moves on to the District 5220 Finals with the winner receiving $1,000 and presenting at the District Conference in Lake Tahoe.

Second place on Friday went to Hannah Methvin, a Central Valley High School junior won second place and $100. Third place and $75 went to Ishanvi Verma, a Whitmore Charter High School freshman. Honorable mentions went to Andrea Rodriguez, a Ceres High School junior and Adrian Valdovinos Villa, an Endeavor High School junior.

“These are some of the best speeches we’ve heard in a long time,” said Ceres Rotary Club President Liz Hosmer.

Andrea Rodriguez explained that she wants to pursue a career in law and possibly in government to address societal problems and bring about change and peace.

“Being an ambassador for school … or working at my job and offering a customer a friendly smile has taught me that for peace to come along there must be active participation from everyone, including myself,” said Rodriguez. “It would make all the difference. I’m firm in my belief that maybe someday soon imaging peace of earth won’t be so difficult. Not the peace where everyone is perfectly fine every second but a peace where those small moments are present for every individual.”

Kylee Labaco reflected on what peace on earth would look like, saying she didn’t have the answers but examined how the Rotary Club makes advances in that direction,

“Rotary is an organization that does their fair share of goodwill,” she said.

“As someone who has been a part of Whitmore Charter High school’s

Interact club, a project I am most familiar with would have to be the Purple

Pinkie project that was created to help fund the polio vaccine. Painting pinkies purple and stamping paper did not feel like much until I saw the numbers – 430 million children were able to be vaccinated in 39 countries with a cost of $3 per child in 2017. $100 million has been spent on just surveilling polio worldwide. Their expansive community of 1.4 million prides themselves on helping and serving others.”

Labaco also noted how the club raises funds to “provide healthcare for mothers or maternal figures and educate them about childcare so that they can raise their children healthily.” Members also offer help for mothers including immunizations, birth kits, and mobile health clinics. 

They also used $3 million on a five-year pilot to save mothers and children in Nigeria by addressing education, poverty, and discrimination. 

“And though it is quite easy to see that even without the project, Rotary is helping us step by step to create peace on Earth. The projects they have created are helping improve the lives of people across the globe. Their community builds fellowship that encourages all parties to help create a better world for everyone. On a planet where we strive for the impossible idea of peace, Rotary has planted a seed of hope to make it possible. Which is why, in summary, we no longer have to imagine peace on Earth; Rotary is paving the path towards it.”

Ishanvi Verma started out talking about dreaming of being a superhero as a kid, and asking “Can’t we also give input to our imagination of peace throughout Earth? The answer to that is yes.”

She quoted Simon Sink, an American-British author you said, “Dream big, start small, but most of all, start.”

“Peace throughout the entire Earth won’t happen in a day but can be influenced by teamwork and our services to the community,” said Verma. “Rotary is a great example being an international service program that helps the world be a better place day by day. They have done so many phenomenal services by promoting peace, fighting diseases, piping clean water, supporting education, and more with nothing in return.”

She stated that volunteerism can advance the planet towards peace.

“Volunteering, I have incorporated into my life is tutoring younger students in English and Mathematics. This not only helped others but helped me practice my education, resulting in an exceeded standard in the state testing. Now you may be wondering how tutoring younger students have an effect on the peace on Earth. Rotary themselves have proven that a major cause promoting peace is supporting others with their education. If everyone has a good education everyone will know what are the right decisions to make and be the superheroes they imagined by saving the world from chaos.”

She cited cooperation and teamwork to achieve a goal of peace and how the Whitmore Charter High School Interact’s “Purple-Pinkie Project” has raised funds for the polio campaign by going around campus and talking about how there are only two more countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan that have polio; and that a donation of one dollar to the “Ending Polio” campaign would save one life from polio.

“Saving a life from polio made me feel like the Avenger imagined in real Life,” she said.

Adrian Valdovinos Villa noted his vision of peace on earth includes universal mental health care to decrease the incidence of mass shootings, free or reduced tuition, with more financial resources available for students so solutions could be found to fight pollution and advance environmentally friendly transportation.

“Another great change that technological advancements can bring is better development in medicine,” Adrian said in his speech. “With better medicinal advancements, more people may be able to afford the care they need. Also, mortality rates of various illnesses could have a great reduction thanks to better advancements in medicine. This would affect people like myself who have family members dealing with serious illness. For example, my dad is battling cancer at the moment and my two nephews have diabetes. I know that treatment and medicine for both cancer and diabetes is not very affordable to many, and hope that one day this may change.”

He suggested “better funding for solutions to hunger and homelessness” and finding ways “for regular housing to be made affordable.”

“Overall, peace on Earth can be achieved if the common people work toward the goal in whatever ways they can. Of course, if all people in power made the effort to come to an agreement and make compromises, it would be achieved significantly quicker and easier. That decision would have a significant impact on many people’s lives.”

Hannan Methvin explained how she joined Yes Company in 2013 and “played a massive role in my self-growth and does for many others too, and that Rotary is the chief financial supporter of the program.

“With the monetary donation Rotary contributes, they allow dozens of children to have a safe, peaceful retreat over the summer months,” said Hannah.

She noted that Rotary spreads world peace through education, opening schools for girls in Afghanistan to stop the cycle of imbalance and poverty. In Nigeria, Rotary has joined the fight against Boko Haram while providing food and education to refugees. “Boko Haram,” means “Western education is forbidden.”

“When I imagine world peace I imagine a place where every child will be allowed to sit in a classroom and think calmly. The solution to world is Rotary.”