Optimist Club announces oratorical contest winners

The official photo of the Optimist Club of Downey’s 2015 Oratorical Contest includes contest judge Meredith Perkins, winning students Cristian Pardo, Andrew Del Valle, Bernardo Carrillo, Alyssa Jimenez, Rafael Delatorre, Brittany Lizarraga and Daniel Pardo, Warren Humanitarian Society advisor Jackie Pardo and contest judge Beverly Mathis.

The official photo of the Optimist Club of Downey’s 2015 Oratorical Contest includes contest judge Meredith Perkins, winning students Cristian Pardo, Andrew Del Valle, Bernardo Carrillo, Alyssa Jimenez, Rafael Delatorre, Brittany Lizarraga and Daniel Pardo, Warren Humanitarian Society advisor Jackie Pardo and contest judge Beverly Mathis.

DOWNEY – For the second successive year, the Optimist Club of Downey is announcing the winners of its Annual Oratorical Contest for Warren High School Humanitarian Society students in The Downey Patriot.

During the Optimist Club’s 2015 Oratorical Contest, which was held May 20 at the Rio Hondo Event Center, each participating student presented a four-to-five minute speech to a panel of three community leaders. Students were judged on the content of their speeches, poise, delivery and presentation and overall effectiveness.

The Optimist Club of Downey annually provides cash prizes for the first six finishers in the contest.  Since there was a tie for sixth place, there are a total of seven Oratorical Contest winners in 2015.

“We are extremely pleased to support the efforts of the wonderful students who competed in this year’s contest,” said Optimist Club member, contest judge and former Downey Mayor Meredith Perkins.  “The quality of the thought that went into each of the speeches was outstanding,” he added.

“It’s truly amazing to see how bright and creative our high school students are,” said contest judge and Downey civic leader Beverly Mathis. “We had a very difficult time selecting the winners, because all the students were exceptional.  We are proud of all these very special young people, who make such a difference with the countless volunteer hours they provide to our community throughout the year.”

The Optimist Club of Downey will provide a total of $2,600 in cash awards to the seven winning students. Winners included:

• Alyssa Jimenez (12th Grade) — First place and a $1,000 prize 
• Bernard Carrillo (11th Grade) — Second place and a $500 prize 
• Brittney Lizarraga (11th Grade) — Third place and a $400 prize 
• Ralph Delatorre (12th Grade) — Fourth place and a $300 prize 
• Daniel Pardo (10th Grade) — Fifth place and a $200 prize 
• Cristian Pardo (10th Grade) and Andrew Del Valle (12th Grade) — Sixth place and a $100 prize (tie) 

The winners will be recognized at the annual Optimist Club Scholarship and Awards Luncheon on June 4 at the Rio Hondo Event Center.

As has become tradition, below is Alyssa’s winning speech:

"As my time as a high school student comes to an end and I make my transition to the real world, I can’t help imagining what is out there for me and how it could help me find a path of greatness.

“I know that I can do anything I want if I try hard enough and put all my effort into it. My optimism helps with this. It gives me the confidence to go out and try new things and find something that I’m passionate about. I know that with my optimism that its OK to fail because no matter what, I am going to get back up and start all over again.

“The meaning of optimism to me is having positivity in everything I do and knowing that my future is bright. This gives me the idea of the world being ours.

“When I think about the world and how big it is, I know that I have so much to learn. Being able to accomplish what I have in eighteen years of my life gives me so much motivation in wanting to achieve even more.

“I was not always so optimistic. I have gone through situations that brought me down or made me believe I wasn’t good enough for anyone or anything. I have come a long way in finding myself and finding positivity in all that has brought me to my knees.

“When I was younger, I was faced with problems of bullying. It was verbally and mentally abusive for a girl who did not really know why this was being done to her. Being called names and having things thrown at me has really shaped my thoughts and character because I never blamed anyone for what was happening.  I pressed on and eventually I saw that the grass was greener on the other side.

“I have also had to deal with being wrongly accused of cheating. This was absolutely devastating, and I even lost friends because of this allegation. But luckily for me, a caring teacher came to my rescue and I was able to overcome this and regain my optimism once more.

“Now, as I go on into a world filled with bullies and people trying to bring you down at any moment, I know I have to envision the greater outcome. Achieving my goals and having an aspiration of showing people that you have to be optimistic to get through to the future is something that I want to share with the world.

“When I find the best in everything and in everyone, I see that no matter what I come across or whom, I cannot let negativity stop me from who I want to become and what goals I wish to achieve.

“As I move forward, I have learned that by remaining optimistic and focusing on my goals, I can achieve my dreams!”

After the contest, the judges spent more than a half-hour speaking to the students about their performances.

“We are very impressed by the quality of your thinking and the way you conducted yourself,” Beverly said. “We know it’s not easy to do this…I can’t imagine being able to speak for four or five minutes to a panel of judges when I was in high school.  Each of you should feel very proud of your efforts.”

“I want you to know that each one of you did a fantastic job today,” Meredith said. “In my opinion, and in the eyes of the Optimist Club of Downey, you are all winners!”