Optimist Club gives out $2500 to essay contest winners

DOWNEY - When Warren High School Humanitarian Society advisor and Spanish teacher Jackie Pardo was about to open the email with the winning names from the Optimist Club of Downey's 2014 Essay Contest, she paused for just a moment to think about the dedicated students she works with, took a deep breath, and clicked. "I was glad I read the names of the winners when I was alone, because I couldn't hold my tears back," Mrs. Pardo said. "Some of these kids have had very challenging lives. They come from humble backgrounds, but they don't allow their family's struggles to impede them from moving forward.

"They are unable to get the latest gadgets and wear clothes that have seen better days, but not once have they played the 'I'm too poor' card," she said. "They are very quiet about money issues and appreciate whatever they have.

"These are very special kids, and whether it's a financial boost or validation of their talent from winning a contest that makes them think and work so hard, each of the students will learn from participating in this contest."

The winners of this year's Optimist Club of Downey essay contest include: First Place and $1,000 - Pedro Sanchez (junior); Second Place and $500 - Cristal Martinez (senior); Third Place and $400 - Debora Jeong (junior); Fourth Place and $300 - Emely Lopez (junior); Fifth Place and $200 - Angelique Franco (junior); Sixth Place and $100 - Melissa Pardo (senior)

In addition to the winners of monetary prizes, seven students were recognized with Honorable Mention awards, including Madalynn Rodriguez, Ricky Amanero, Daniel Pardo, Mario Mendoza, Cristian Pardo, Bianca Favela and Andrew Del Valle.

"These students wrote some tremendous essays on 'How Dreams Lead to Success', which was this year's contest topic," said Beverly Mathis, who chaired the judging effort.

"There was a lot of heart in these papers, which I'm sure was a reflection of the hopes and dreams of these wonderful young people," she said. "Selecting the winners was very challenging because so many of the students excelled on their contest entries."

Here, in its entirety, is Pedro Sanchez's winning essay:

"America: home of the free and the land of opportunities. People came to the United States to escape personal grievances. They were robbed of their dreams and all they had; they came here to start fresh and dream anew. They joined together to build our great country. America is a place where people have risen from rags to riches and where people have made their wishes a reality. It is the only place in the world where an individual can look at a mansion and say, "That will be mine someday." None of this would be possible if our founding fathers had not had the courage to dream.

But what is a dream? This word can have two different but very similar definitions. Dreams are the vivid images in our minds while we sleep. They can be the inspiration for our actions when we are awake. When I dream, I see the possibilities ahead of me and find solutions to my problems. Dreams take me back to times in the past so that I can gain insight that will help me make better decisions. A dream can also be a desire for a much greater future. It can ignite the fires in our hearts and souls. It can open the door to possibilities never imagined before. Dreams challenge a man's limits and push him beyond what he could imagine in trying to accomplish his goals.

Many people believe that dreams are the reason for one's success, but they are only half right. Dreams are the starting point for success and happiness for a person, but the person's will to achieve the dream is equally important. Some people might have dreams, but they never do anything to accomplish them because they are afraid. This is created by a weak will. They are more concerned with what other people think about them. Without a sound mind or body, they may not have the energy or the ability to think of solutions. They might not be able to gather the resources or money they need and give up. It takes more than a dream to achieve success. It is like a marathon. Everyone has the right to participate, but not everyone can finish. It takes physical and mental preparation to cross the finish line.

Successful people have strong wills to make their dreams come true. These dreamers first identify what they need in order to achieve their goals. They find the passion that will fuel their dreams. They put all their time, dedication, and sometimes all their money for that dream. They never give up; they do not get discouraged. When someone tries to put them down by saying that they cannot achieve their dreams, they do not pay attention to any of that. Instead, each obstacle, each failure encourages them to continue the struggle. They will go to the edge of the world to reach their dreams. On the other side of the spectrum, there are the people who have no dreams. These people, sad to say, are the ones that do not look to the future. They are currently homeless or have horrible paying jobs or are stuck in a bad life. They just accept what comes to them and do not try to shape their lives into something better. They are always looking for excuses. They try to blame other people for their unhappy lives when they should be taking responsibility for their own actions. They never engage in living; they just go through the motions. Our country would never have succeeded if these people had been our founding fathers.

As an American, my heritage is to dream. Our country is a model of taking a chance and making the impossible possible. My parents came here from Mexico, believing of a better life for themselves and their children. They had the courage to dream and the will to make it happen.

According to a study on dreams, my dreams which tell me what is coming also happen to other people. The study reports that there is a fifty-two percent chance of a person's dream becoming a reality. With these odds, I will always pursue my dreams. Dreams will never stop inspiring us. They challenge our minds and make us stronger. They make life meaningful. I am a dreamer, and I am proud of it. My dreams will lead me to my success."

"I want to thank the Optimist Club of Downey for providing our students with a series of awesome opportunities to achieve success and serve the community," Mrs. Pardo said. "I especially thank them for reaching into their pockets and helping these young men and women."

"Our support of Downey's young people is a direct result of the support we receive for our golf tournament and other charitable activities," said Optimist Club of Downey President Tom Burney. "We are so proud of the accomplishments and citizenship of the students in the Warren Humanitarian Society, and we are especially proud of the students who distinguished themselves with their fantastic essays. "

********** Published: Feb. 27, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 46