Each year Rotary clubs in the Valley and foothills host speech contests, with the finalists from each of the 12 areas going on to compete at the District 5220 level. Ceres Rotary hosted Zoom contests at the school, club and area-level during January and February.
The Ceres Rotary Club’s contest on Jan. 29 drew five speech givers via Zoom. Claiming first place and $125 was Ceres High School junior Elijah Vas Dinis. The second place spot was earned by Paolo Campos, a senior at Central Valley High School who earned $100. Ceres High School freshman Kiera Valdovinos took third place and $75. Honorable mentions went to Manhoor Kahloon, a Ceres High School senior; and Olivia Davis, a Whitmore Charter High School junior.
Dinis went on to compete in the Feb. 5 Area 12 contest hosted by Ceres and Modesto Flex Rotary clubs via Zoom. Area 12 is comprised of the Rotary Clubs of Ceres, Modesto Flex, Turlock and Turlock Sunrise. In it Elijah took second place and $125 cash prize while Enochs High School senior Emma Garber won first place and $175 prize. Garber goes onto compete in the District-level contest.
District 5220 will host the winning student from each of the 12 areas later this spring. The District winner will receive $1,000 and an invitation to speak at the annual district conference.
“Today it is easy to get absorbed by the negativity that a world pandemic, a tense political climate, and a seemingly endless quarantine can bring, Rotary has been focused on combating the world issues through a positive lens,” said Vas Dinis in his speech. “When I first heard of rotary, there was one thing in particular that caught my attention. I was specifically drawn to the way that Rotary grants students college scholarships, along with an opportunity to help groups in need in different parts of the world.”
He said he joined the Interact Club on his campus which exposed him to “seeing so many young people become selfless for the betterment of the whole is something that I want to embrace and incorporate in my own personal life.” He spent time reflecting on how encouragement more than ever is needed as young people have become disillusioned about their future in the pandemic lockdown.
Each year, the Rotary International (RI) President chooses a theme to guide Rotarians across the globe. RI President Hoger Knaack, who’s home club is the Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln, Germany, chose “Together we Open Opportunities” stating that, “Rotary creates pathways for members to improve their lives and the lives of those they help through service projects. We believe that our acts of service, big and small, create opportunities for people who need our help.”
As part of their speech, students were to place emphasis on how this topic applied to their lives, future dreams, and in their pursuit of education and involvement in community service. They also needed to reference the impact of Rotary locally and globally.