Warren High's Sarah Aguilar wins first place in speech contest

DOWNEY – Warren High School Senior and Downey resident Sarah Aguilar has won first place and a $1,000 award in the Optimist Club of Downey’s 2016 Oratorical Contest, which was held Tuesday for members of the Warren Humanitarian Society.

Other winners included:
• Second Place and a $500 Award: Bernard Carrillo
• Third Place and a $400 Award: Cristian Pardo
• Fourth Place and a $300 Award: Ashley Torres
• Fifth Place and a $200 Award: Diego Ramirez
• Honorable Mention and a $100 Award: Daniel Pardo
• Honorable Mention and a $100 Award: Brittney Lizarraga
• Honorable Mention and a $100 Award: Alexis Cabada
• Honorable Mention and a $100 Award: Felipe Dorado

“The Oratorical Contest scoring was incredibly close,” said contest judge Tom Burney of the Optimist Club of Downey. “After totaling the three judge’s score sheets, the first four places were separated by only 10 points and the second, third and fourth place finishers were separated by only three points. We’ve never had any contest that was nearly so close,” he said.

 Sarah Aguilar, right, won first prize in the Optimist Club of Downey's Oratorical Contest.

Sarah Aguilar, right, won first prize in the Optimist Club of Downey's Oratorical Contest.

“These students were extremely poised, their talks were well thought-out, and they did a tremendous job,” said contest judge and former Downey Mayor Meredith Perkins. “These young people represent their school and the city of Downey so well with the many hours of community service they provide throughout the year.  We are very proud to be affiliated with such outstanding young citizens.”    

The students each spoke for four to five minutes on the topic of “How My Best Brings Out the Best in Others.”  The same topic is being used for Oratorical Contests that are carried out by local Optimist Clubs across the globe.

The Humanitarian Society has been sponsored by the Optimist Club of Downey for many years.  The club is a force for good, with members showing up to work as volunteers at dozens of civic events throughout Southeast Los Angeles County each year.

“Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of having a number of Humanitarian Society members work side-by-side with us on our charity golf tournament,” said Optimist Club of Downey President Fred Donnelly.  

“Humanitarian Society members are also critical to the Pumpkin Patch that we sponsor each year along with Soroptimist International of Downey and the city,” he said.  “These amazing students give up many days during the year to help others.  We salute their commitment and their values, and we are very proud to be working with such wonderful young people.”

As is The Downey Patriot’s tradition, we are printing the text of Sarah’s speech below:

“Being the best you can be comes from overcoming obstacles that make you grow as a person.  I learned this first-hand my sophomore year of high school.  What once was this mountain that I thought I could not overcome turned into a growing point that I now share to help others find their true potential. This journey taught me to share the importance of believing in yourself, being strong-willed, and to always pursue your dreams and goals no matter the circumstances.
It all started with my ex-boyfriend. We had just broken up and because he was not mature enough to handle the breakup, he began to act in an unacceptable manner.  He would constantly egg my house and my mom’s car, and would follow me yelling rude and demeaning words.  

This mental harassment soon led me to a state of depression. I lost sight of who I was and what my worth was. My mother quickly noticed I was not myself anymore, because I was not doing the usual things I loved to do. Therefore, she took me to seek help with a clinical psychologist.
In light of everything, my psychologist’s main goal in our sessions was to help me find myself again and realize that no matter what the situation may be, you have to be the best you can be. It took me about six months to realize that I am strong enough and to believe that I can overcome any challenge that comes my way. I figured this out through volunteer work, learning more about myself, and with the help of my mom.

By the same token, many of my friends have either similar stories that they are dealing with or they feel lost. Whether it is depression, obstacles, or they feel like giving up, I express to them that they are not alone and to remember their self-worth.

I share my story of my mountain and how instead of letting it bring me down, I learned to use tools to climb over it and become my personal best. Just the way I do so, they can do the same. I give them examples of some of the tools I used, invite them to come volunteer, or simply listen to them.

Furthermore, I know I have impacted many. I would like to share a story with you. One day, a friend of mine pulled me aside and told me, “I need to tell you something very important.” She expressed to me that by sharing my story with her it made her realize that she needed to work on herself in order to achieve her dreams and be the person she wants to be.  

She shared that all the optimism I have I have and how I always have a smile on my face no matter what I am going through really impacted her. She was once an introvert and is now an extrovert. She learned that by having some self-esteem and some belief in herself she was able to overcome her mountain.

All in all, everyone has their struggles, whether they are big or small, but it is always important to remember to not let those difficult tasks get in the way of being your personal best. No one is perfect, we are all human and make mistakes, but we can all learn to embrace our strengths and let those positive attributes shine while improving on our areas of growth to be the best we can be.”

The winning students received their awards at the Optimist Club of Downey’s annual Scholarship and Awards Luncheon that was held Thursday at the Rio Hondo Event Center, where the club’s 2016 scholarship awardees and Essay Contest winners were also honored. 

 “When you look closely at what these students have accomplished this year and throughout their high school careers, you realize that each Warren Humanitarian Society member is very special,” said Oratorical Contest Judge and Optimist Scholarship Chair Beverly Mathis. “They think they are lucky to be working with us and learning from us, but we are the lucky ones.  We gain so much enthusiasm and commitment by just being around these inspiring students and their wonderful advisor, Jackie Pardo.

“It is a pleasure to work with such talented, committed and inspiring young people as those we judged in the Oratorical contest,” Beverly said.  “We want each member of the Warren Humanitarian Society to know that we believe in them and that our hopes and dreams travel with them with every step they take, both today and in the future,” she said.