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Zamaroni, Alfonso, Ochoa top 3 in Rotary speech contest
Theme on Serving Humanity
Speech contestants
The Ceres Rotary Club heard from these six high school students who were finalists in the annual Speech Contest: Leslie Alfonso, Danielle Haro, Mohamad Sabri, Samantha Hendrix, Ignacio Ochoa, Madison Zamaroni and Ceres Rotary Club president Cathy Pietanza. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Working without notes, Madison Zamaroni delivered the winning speech at Friday's Ceres Rotary Club Speech contest as she spoke about her desire to serve her world through a career in agriculture.

The theme of the contest was on "Serving humanity."

Zamaroni goes on to the area speech contest on Feb. 10.

The Ceres High School senior was one of six students who made it to the finals of the annual contest which was judged by Rotarians. Leslie Alfonso captured second place with a stirring speech centered on how her family has served others.

Ceres High junior Ignacio Ochoa took third place.

Honorable mentions went to speech contestants Mohamad Sabri, a Whitmore Charter High School senior; Samantha Hendrix, an Argus/Endeavor High junior; and Danielle Haro, a Central Valley High School senior.

Madison Zamaroni
Zamaroni spoke enthusiastically about the Future Farmers of America which has shaped her direction in life.

"As I've seen Rotarians serve my community and others," she said, "I want the best future and education possible in order to one day be an influential factor in others' lives just as Rotarians are."

Zamaroni said she wants to become a livestock veterinarian.

"There are some misunderstandings about the use of antibiotics and the treatment of the animals in the animal industry. I will be the middle man who regulates the use of antibiotics and as a first-hand witness to the treatment of livestock in order to give my story and intervene if necessary."

She said she yearns for a career in agriculture so she can be the one advocate who can potentially change the industry and help it grow.

"I also intend to do research on the effects of antibiotics in animals on humans while I attend Cornell University during the next four years," said Madison. "I want to know as much about this phenomenon as I can so I can confidently say ‘you're good is safe.'"

She also told Rotarians that she wants to spend a year in an underdeveloped nation to educate them on how to grow their own food.

Samantha Hendrix
Samantha Hendrix touched on the struggles faced by her disabled sister Sarah who was not accepted by her peers.

"I cannot help but feel that she missed out because she was literally not accepted. My sister is different, but aren't we all different? Everyone deserves a chance," said Samantha. "My goal is create a safe place, with the help of Rotary, where everyone can grow up and be their own person."

She noted how Rotary has helped give disabled teens a chance to participate in sports. Samantha envisions clubs that would help teens explore options and benefit from friendships and role models.

Mohamad Sabri
Sabri, who intends to become a pharmacist, said he wants to give the world new ideas of vaccines and medicines to "revolutionize not just our country but the world." He said he has already started learning about cancer radiation treatments at a biotech firm in the Bay Area.

"At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year I came up with an idea to create a refugee drive so that we gather goods for those in need in Stanislaus County," said Sabri. "My experience with helping newly arriving refugees has given me a sense of what it truly is to be tested because it is hard for people starving for a new life."

He complimented Rotarians for helping the world, such as the eradication of polio.

Ignacio Ochoa
Ignacio Ochoa spoke about the purpose of man giving a person meaning.

"In my case, my parents are my purpose," said Ochoa. "They inspire me each day to never give up on my dreams and to be selfless. Both my parents were born into poverty in Mexico. They were raised with the idea that these living conditions were their inevitable future. My father went to the sixth grade and my mother to the eighth grade and then their families forced them to not go to school anymore because they needed the extra money. After their marriage they both decided to immigrate into the U.S. after finding out my mother was pregnant with my oldest sister. They took their chances and were able to travel successfully across the border in 1992. They came in search of hope and the opportunity to give my sisters and I a better life."

His dad started his own business to support the family.

Ignacio, 16, said he cherishes all opportunities he gets to enjoy in America and wants to attend medical school to become a doctor.

"With education, scholarships, financial aid and so many more, we must not be ungrateful and we must give back to our communities."

He said he has given back through the Leadership class, Science Olympiad, "Love Ceres" and volunteering through his church. Ochoa said he hopes to give back on a greater scale and could become a member of the Rotary Club. He cited their various contributions to humanity, such as:

• Eliminated polio in 122 nations;

• Reduced HIV infections in child by 95 percent;

• Provided clean water to 80 percent of Ghana's population.

Danielle Haro
Danielle Haro quoted the Dalai Lama, saying without love and compassion that humanity cannot survive. She went on to mention little ways to make a difference in everyday life, such as thanking her "awesome" high school teachers or participating in extracurricular activities. She noted how she participated in a church service project by assembling care packages for the homeless.

Danielle, who wants to become a nurse, said serving others has benefits for those being served as well as herself.

"Some people in society view serving or volunteering as only being beneficial to one side. I personally believe this is the exact opposite because whenever I have the chance to serve others, I feel an immense amount of joy in being able to be a part of these special experiences. In a sense, we are all neighbors when it comes to serving others."

She stated that "the world is slowly forgetting what it means to serve others and this is truly affecting humanity."

Rotary, she noted, has helped in Indonesia with water sanitation facilities.

Leslie Alfaro
Leslie Alfaro spoke to her acts of service, such as cleaning the Tuolumne Regional Park, helped freshmen study at Central Valley High and donated to homeless shelters. Modeling community service has been her mother who took Leslie and her brother to Central America to hand out food, toiletries, and clothing.

"I remember seeing people run up to my mother with tears streaming down their face, thanking her for supplying them with things they never imagined they would be able to receive. It was one of the one most warming moments I've ever had a chance to be a part of. After this I made the decision - even at six years old - that I wanted to find ways to help once I got back home."

She said she wants to use her education to serve others and plans to do that through psychiatry or being a meditator. Leslie also said she wants to work with community service groups like Rotary. She ended her speech quoting Eldridge Clever: "You are a part of the solution or part of the problem."