Skip to main content

American River Messenger

Students Speak on Changing Lives through Service

Mar 08, 2022 12:00AM ● By Story by Shaunna Boyd

Local high school students (left to right) Morrigan Hines, Noah Wright, Stewart Fang, and Jocelyn Monroe-Holder competed in the Fair Oaks Rotary Club's annual Speech Contest. Photo by Shaunna Boyd

Students Speak on Changing Lives through Service [2 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The Fair Oaks Rotary Club hosted their annual Speech Contest for local high school students on February 28 at the VFW hall near Phoenix Park. Four students competed this year, speaking on the topic “Serve to Change Lives.”

Morrigan Hines, a junior at Meraki High School, opened the contest with a speech that was a call to action. She advocated fighting for a “brighter world,” even if that fight risks your safety or your life. Hines pointed to the rampant hate and bigotry in society and said that there are many who have died fighting for justice. And many more, she said, are killed “by indifference” when people don’t stand up against that hatred, instead remaining “caught in the web of inertia.” Hines described service as an “act of love” by those who fight to change the lives of vulnerable and marginalized groups. She urged everyone to use their words and their actions to push for a “brighter future.”

Noah Wright, a senior at Bella Vista High School, said he’s been volunteering in the community since he was nine years old. When volunteering at the local food bank, he said he most enjoyed delivering food to clients, because that “seemingly small act” made such a significant impact on those families and their futures. Wright said that even small interventions, simple acts of service, can change the course of someone’s life. And that service also changes the lives of those who serve—Wright said volunteering has given him confidence and has become like a “compass” for him: “I have a purpose when I’m helping others.”

Steward Fang, a junior at Sacramento Waldorf High School, spoke of the Butterfly Effect—the idea that small actions like the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can have a ripple effect, causing larger impacts across the world. He said he knows that one person can change the world, because when he moved from the Sichuan Province in China to the United States six years ago, “one person changed everything for me.” When he arrived, he couldn’t speak, read, or write English, which made integrating into the school system incredibly difficult. But a tutor worked with him every day, often staying after school to make sure his skills were improving. Fang said that act of service “changed my life” and taught him that he too could change the world. During the pandemic, many students struggled with remote learning, so Fang joined a tutoring group to give other students that same gift of time and attention that made such a difference for him. By showing those students he “trusts their potential,” Fang said he is changing the world “one fourth-grader at a time.” For Fang, changing the world starts with serving those around us, and he asked, “Which lives will you change this year?”

Jocelyn Monroe-Holder, a sophomore at Meraki High School, said that her own experiences as a Black person in this country have made her yearn for a world where everyone is treated with respect and given equal opportunities. She pointed to the struggles faced by homeless people in the community and the impact of laws that often criminalize their existence. And despite various well-intended organizations, Monroe-Holder said the hands-off approach of charity isn’t working. While donating food, clothes, or money is nice, she said those actions don’t bring any “fundamental change.” She said it’s important to actually speak to those in the community to ask what kind of help would be most impactful, like making systemic changes to provide consistent access to needed resources. Monroe-Holder urged everyone to find ways “to do good things.”

Nick Broad, Chair of the Fair Oaks Rotary Club Speech Contest, said he was proud of all the contestants. He said, “To the parents, you’ve raised four good ones. …. They’ve said their truth.”

Hines and Wright tied for third place in the contest, each earning an award of $50. Monroe-Holder won second place, with a $100 award. First place was taken by Fang, who was awarded $200 and will go on to compete in the Rotary District 5180 semi-finals in April.