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American River Messenger

Create Hope in the World

Mar 19, 2024 09:21AM ● By Margaret Snider, photos by Margaret Snider
Five students spoke in the Fair Oaks Rotary Speech Contest on March 4.  From right are first- place winner Adiya Clurman, Bella Vista High School 12th-grader; second-place winner Kiyomi Fielden, a Bella Vista 10th-grader; third-place winner Fia Nicolaescu, Bella Vista 10th-grader; and tied for fourth-place, Jocelyn Monroe-Holder, Meraki High School 12th-grader; and Jackson Cannon, Sacramento Waldorf School, 12th-grader.

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The Fair Oaks Rotary Club has been holding its high school speech contest for more than 20 years.  This year, the subject for the five- to eight-minute speeches was, “Create Hope in the World.”  Three Fair Oaks high schools contributed contestants:  Bella Vista High School chose three students to participate, Meraki High School one, and Sacramento Waldorf School one student. 

Master of Ceremonies Nick Broad, the Speech Competition chair for 2024, introduced the contest. “You’re already the best and brightest in your high schools by showing the courage and the tenacity and the hard work to show up,” Broad said.  “Have some fun during the process.” The students remained anonymous to the judges and the audience until after all had spoken and the judging was completed. 

First-place winner was Bella Vista High School 12th-grader Adiya Clurman.  She wrote an entirely different speech at first, she said after the contest, but after talking with her parents about hope and other things, “I thought that the meaning of life was, ‘Leave the world better than you found it.’” She based the speech around that feeling.  Adiya participated in Poetry Out Loud in seventh-grade, and later on in debate and drama. As the winner, Adiya received $250 and will go on to the regional semi-finals. The winner of that contest will advance to the finals in Reno.

Second-place went to Kiyomi Fielden, a Bella Vista High School 10th-grader, who said this was the first time she had ever done anything like this contest.  The speech’s message included that the flame of hope is born and lives within us and can be found in the simple things of everyday life.  Kiyomi received a $100 prize. 

Another Bella Vista 10th-grader, Fia Nicolaescu, won third-place.  Her talk gave examples of people who had exercised hope in very difficult circumstances. She quoted Martin Luther King, who said, “Only light can drive out darkness.”

Two 12th-graders tied for fourth-place: Jackson Cannon from Sacramento Waldorf School and Jocelyn Monroe-Holder from Meraki High School. Jackson noted the connection of hope to community to mental health and that the three form a “positive feedback loop.”  Amid a personal sense of hopelessness, Jocelyn said, “What did I have to create hope within my world?” She found it in looking outward in service and still continues volunteering and helping others. These final three contestants received $50 each.

Judging was carried out by Fair Oaks Rotarians Mazzy Chirwa and Dave Williams, led by head judge Monica Eisel, not a Fair Oaks Rotarian but a former international speech competitor.  Rotarian Doris Fulgham was the timekeeper.

“It’s a shining moment for these students, they are really exceptional young people,” Broad said. “You regularly go, ‘Wow, we can’t tell who should be the winner, they’re all so good.’” 

Rotarian Dave Holzknecht helped organize the event, especially in developing relationships with the high school faculties.

Fair Oaks Rotary President Dave Claugus has been a Rotary member for about 12 years and has been associated with the Fair Oaks speech contest some four times. 

“I’m hoping each one of them comes away from the experience not only smiling but feeling better about themselves,” Claugus said. “That’s confidence.  I think that’s important as you go forward in life.”

Fair Oaks Rotary Speech Contest

 Student contestants in the Fair Oaks Rotary Speech Contest pose on the stage with their parents.