Morgan Hill student wins area speech debate

Deanna Martin

– Painting a vivid picture with words difficult to hear, Live
Oak High School senior Deanna Martin spoke with passion and
Gilroy – Painting a vivid picture with words difficult to hear, Live Oak High School senior Deanna Martin spoke with passion and confidence.

“Imagine, if you will, a young girl. She is 5 years old, yet her emaciated body makes her look more like she is 2. Her lips are cracked and parched, her body tiny and withered,” Martin said. “Coming to the rescue yet again, Rotary has been raising funds for a six-month program that will feed 40,000 people like this little girl, saving them from starvation.”

Martin, in her first year of speech debate, captured first place Tuesday in Rotary’s area speech contest at Gilroy Elks Lodge, competing against Derek Jara, a sophomore at San Benito High School, and Tasha LoPorto, a senior at Gilroy High School. Martin will advance next month to a regional speech debate in Los Gatos.

Martin’s speech spotlighted PolioPlus, a Rotary International program launched in 1985 that has raised $123 million to eradicate polio, with a goal of raising a total of $180 million to end the disease by the end of this year.

“Ever since 1985 … Rotarians across the world have not only been raising massive amounts of money but also have been selflessly giving up their valuable time in order to immunize over 2 billion children, as well as saving 4 million from death and paralysis,” she said.

The theme for this year’s contest is Century Builders Building Bridges, in commemoration of Rotary’s centennial anniversary celebrated this year. The students wrote their own speeches, which were required to incorporate Rotary’s four-way test: whether actions and words are true, fair, build goodwill and are beneficial to all concerned.

Martin’s speech was preceded by runner-up LoPorto, who spoke about the need to care for the environment.

LoPorto challenged Rotary members to expand their efforts toward environmental conservation, such as creating a regional recycling program or even traveling to developing countries to provide education about population control.

“Imagine the impact Rotary can have on environmental change,” she said. “There is no gift you can give more fair and more beneficial to future generations than a healthy life and a healthy environment. We have marked history with our benevolence. To what extent will you mark the future?”

Jara kicked off the debate with his speech on the International Space Station. The San Benito High student described the station, the largest and most complex international scientific project in history, and discussed how it is influencing international relations.

Led by the United States, the station draws on resources from 27 countries, a fact Jara used to illustrate the value of teamwork and relationships.

“When this project is finished, people from around the world will be able to live in peace while discovering the mysteries of space,” he said.

Between speeches, TJ Owens, president of the Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education, encouraged Rotarians to heed the words of the contestants, as well as all young people.

“People often say they are our future,” he said. “I often wonder if they might be the present.”

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