March 28, 2008

They Can Change the World One Speech at a Time

Students Call Attention to the Environment, the Less Fortunate, and Social Justice

Halecrest Elementary student Elias Mooring came to a profound realization as he distributed soap to girls at an orphanage in Tijuana. It wasn’t the soap that brought them joy. The girls were happy, Elias realized, “because they saw that someone cared about them.”

Elias’ experience in helping the orphans became the focus of his first-place speech among sixth graders in the 25th Annual Bank of America Speech Contest. The theme was on the topic, “How I can change the world to be a better place.” Elias’ near flawless delivery of a challenging subject wowed the panel of judges.

Elias, his family and friends travel to Tijuana each year around the December and Spring holidays to visit Casa Hogar Santa Teresita orphanage. Elias has continued building support for the orphanage through his school, church and neighbors. “It’s humbling,” said Patricia Léon-Mooring, Elias’ mother, of the community’s response.

She said she had to encourage Elias to compete after he failed to place as a fifth-grader last year. In winning this year’s competition, and the subsequent outpouring of help for the orphanage, her son has come to feel he is answering a calling, which is to serve others, Léon-Mooring said.

The combination of character and content reflects what’s right about Chula Vista schools, contest organizers said. For 25 years, Bank of America has nurtured Chula Vista students’ public speaking skills through sponsorship of the Speech Contest. The popular event attracts many talented young speakers.

Having already won their individual school competitions, 78 students in grades 4, 5, and 6 took part in this year’s District finals. Together, the finalists represented 26 CVESD schools.

Superintendent Lowell J. Billings, ED.D, said each of the participants was already a winner—they had acquired the gift of public speaking. “This is a skill that will carry them far as they continue on to high school, college and a career,” Billings said.

The students’ speeches were three- to five-minutes in length. The importance of protecting the Earth’s natural resources was a recurring theme in many of the speeches. Students spoke about taking action to improve air and water quality, combating global warming and increasing recycling. Others spoke about preventing animal cruelty, improving race relations or helping homeless and foster youth.

First-place winners will present their speeches at the April 15, 2008, Board of Education meeting. District staff will also provide opportunities for the First-, Second-, and Third-place winners to demonstrate their talent by presenting their speeches at various community group meetings. Each of the winners will receive a savings bond, courtesy of Bank of America. A digital video copy of the presentations will be provided to each contestant.

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