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Rotary speech contest draws three contestants
• Iran Torres Aleman named the first place winner in contest
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Speech contestants Claire Hoxie, Iran Torres Aleman and Jhaala Coleman-Curry, pose with Ceres Rotary Club President Robert Wallace at the Jan. 25 Rotary meeting and speech contest. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Iran Torres Aleman was named the first place winner and Claire Hoxie as second-place finisher in the Ceres Rotary Club’s annual student speech contest.

Third place winner was Jhaala Coleman-Curry.

The three students delivered their speeches – themed on the topic of “Be the Inspiration” – at noon at the Ceres Community Center.

Aleman moves on to the Rotary’s area contest to be held at Argus High School in Ceres on Friday, Feb. 8. Torres was presented with a $100 check and Hoxie $75. Coleman received a check for $50.

Second place winner Claire Hoxie of Whitmore Charter High School. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Claire Hoxie, a senior at Whitmore Charter High School, was the first speaker.

“What makes something truly inspiring is what it leads a person to do next in their life,” said Claire. She said she tries to inspire others through her actions and values.

“Often times we don’t realize how much we can inspire people.”

She mentioned how a stranger’s smile in a grocery store when she was 10 changed her whole day. “Now I smile at every person I make eye contact with and hope I can change someone’s day for the better.”

Hoxie mentioned her involvement with the American Heritage Girls which inspires to make girls of integrity. She helped plan service projects in the community to get young girls “excited about serving others.”  The project called for making and painting over 500 crosses to be placed on military graves on Memorial Day. She said the actioned caused others outside the group to become involved and inspired some to visit the graves of family members who served in the military.

She referenced the Rotary Club’s motto of “Service Above Self.”

“It only takes one person daring to step out of the comforts of their homes to put other needs in front of their own, to make a change, to start a wildfire of inspiration.”

She said Rotarians choose to put their needs aside to help others and that she is inspired to do the same. “I will continue to be the change and inspiration I want to see in the world. I am choosing to take action and inspire others to small and large tasks that make a difference in my own community.” 

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Third place winner Jhaala Coleman-Curry of Ceres Valley High School. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Ceres High School senior Jhaala Coleman-Curry said when she thinks of those who inspire thoughts of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and her teachers, parents and peers.

“I’m inspired by the little things. Inspire to push myself even when I’m tired. My dreams, they will one day become my inspirations.”

She said she dreams of becoming a psychiatrist in her quest to change the world. 

Jhaala said as a member of the Black Student Union she was invited to attend a court hearing of a young man who ran afoul of the law. She learned he was beaten by his father and drug and alcohol problems.

“It began to dawn on me that no one cared about his mental state; they only cared about the sentencing. This truly became an inspiration in itself to follow my dreams of becoming a psychiatrist.”

She lauded the Rotarians for tackling worldwide problems such as poor healthcare. The club also inspires students through adult literacy programs and providing dictionary to students. In fact, she said as a Walter White third-grader she remembered receiving a dictionary which “had a profound effect” on her life.

“Sometimes all you need is an inspiration. Sometimes all you need is for someone to be there for you. Sometimes all you need is a hug.”

Jhaala wants to attend to attend college in Alabama.

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First place winner Iran Torres Aleman of Central Valley High School. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Iran Torres Aleman, a senior at Central Valley High School, suggested that inspiration is a process.

She said at a recent Rotary youth gathering she was particularly inspired to create a difference in someone’s life and live a life that’s “not just about myself.”

“We should constantly be reminding others why they matter in this world and not only that, make them feel like they matter to us,” said Iran. She said true change is when that message is carried to strangers and others who we don’t like.

She left the conference and joined a campus spiritual club which took up a toy collection for the Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento. She helped advertise the effort on social media and posting flyers and attending club meetings. The toys that went to the children around Christmas time was intended to show that they matter to someone they didn’t know.

At the hospital she learned more about the Shriner’s mission and was inspired to do more.

“For years I have been wanting to be a doctor but I wasn’t sure in what area I would specialize in. But standing there in that hospital I knew for the first time that I wanted to help children.”

She wrapped up her speech saying, “I have come to believe that inspiration is a process and can meet you at any moment. To be an inspiration to others, you must first feel the desire to create a change in someone else’s life. It is only through these selfless actions that you can really create a change and inspire others to create a change in the world.”

Iran told the group that she applied to 92 colleges but is hoping for Stanford or UC Berkeley universities.

Rotarian Dan Pangrazio said all the students “are all winners to be here today” and that they all were “very well prepared.”