Central Valley High School student Leslie Garcia was named the first place winner and Delia Rangel as second-place finisher in the Ceres Rotary Club’s annual student speech contest.
Third place winner was Angela Hernandez.
Receiving honorable mentions were Amber Hopwood and Diana Soriano.
The three students delivered their speeches – themed on the topic of “Serve to Change Lives” – at noon at the Ceres Community Center.
Garcia moves on to the Rotary’s area contest this Friday. She was presented with a $125 check and Rangel $100. Hernandez received a check for $75.
The winner of the Rotary District 5220 Area 12 speech contest on Friday afternoon will go on to the state level contest.
Each student was asked to speak on ways to impact the lives of others.
Garcia spoke about how her mother has inspired her to serve others, such as reading to children at the Ceres Partnership or helping out at the student gardens at Don Pedro and Sinclear elementary schools.
“Climate change is diminishing the world as we know it and if the communities don’t act fast, the Earth will not be saved,” said Garcia, who aspires to be an environmental educator. “I feel this will provide me with the opportunity to be of service to others because I’ll be making sure that people are aware of environmental issues and are actively trying to help. Helping the environment is one of Rotary’s missions … by providing $18.4 million in Foundation global grants to support economic development, cities having access to clean water and hygiene products.”
She mentioned helping to clean up Modesto parks with her church.
Delia Rangel, who aspires to broadcast journalism, said Rotarians model the concept of improving people’s lives worldwide.
“Making a difference in someone’s life doesn’t have to be on such a large scale,” she said. “It can be as simple as a smile. Smaller, consistent acts of service can be just as if not more impactful than the big over-the-top moments. This is where you can make those personal connections with people that change lives on both ends. Simple acts of service and kindness can go just as long of a way. I personally strive to serve others in more simple, day-to-day ways – helping someone with their homework, complimenting someone’s outfit, sharing a part of my lunch.”
As a member of Girls Scouts for 12 years, Delia has volunteered at the Center for Human Services. She has also done community service projects through her membership in the Central Valley High School Leadership program , California Scholarship Federation and National Honors Society chapters.
Rangel noted that she became stretched when feeding the homeless and “got past the small talk” to learn of the plight of one woman. She learned that the mother of a four-year-old became homeless when she got out of an abusive relationship.
Whitmore Charter High School’s Angela Hernandez spoke of her concern for the environment and her aspirations to become a large animal veterinarian and an animal rights activist.
Hernandez spoke of her dream to create a small business serving animals as well as a shelter, saying “and it would be my dream to fight environmental justice alongside Rotary so I cannot only protect the animals that I fell in love with but our communities as well.”
She implored club members to support environmentally sound companies “with the green power in your wallets” as well as support Rotary.
Angela used a portion of her speech to indicate how seeing her cat gnaw on Nerf bullets was the moment “where my guilt of using unethical products and packaging began as a consumer.”
She mentioned an Environmental Science & Technology study that claims Americans consume and inhale up to 74,000 to 120,000 micro-plastic particles each year.
Amberlin Hopwood, a Ceres High School sophomore, said she is inspired by the example set forth by the Rotary Club.
“Acts similar to these have encouraged me to do more for our community,” she said. “Since then I have joined the California Scholarship Federation and the Future Medical Professionals.”
She said going into a medical career would allow her to give back to others.
“Helping people is a passion and the work that I have done and plan to do in the years ahead has helped it burn, galvanizing me to work harder for the kind of future I want to see,” said Hopwood.
Diana Soriano mentioned how she was placed in a foster home at the sixth grade which required community service change and said “It was good to see a little bit of change during the time I was able to help.” On weekends for six months she helped pick up trash at a local lake or serve food to the needy in parks.
“It was such an amazing experience in life that made the community better but helped me become a better person as well,” said the Ceres High sophomore. “I genuinely cannot thank the people around me enough for helping me be a better person towards our world.”
She mentioned admiring the Rotary Club for building schools, helping adults become literate and providing clean water in undeveloped nations.
Soriano said she is considering becoming a teacher as a career.
“To all of the support systems and agencies that help struggling students like myself, I am full of gratitude. I have the goal of giving back to this community that has made me the person I am today.”