A group of young speakers from local high schools recently seemed more like a group from the United Nations as they addressed the topic of “Freedom of the Press – What does it Mean?”
The diverse group represented Korean-born, Venezuelan-born; of Mexican heritage, East-Indian-born and American-born of Belizean (Belize) parents. This year, out of the seven contestants, only two were American-born; the others represented being foreign-born in worn-torn countries.
To say that it was truly a remarkable evening would be an understatement in hearing the young people tell of their hardships, at such young ages, in their native countries and their resultant trek to America and freedom. The room was so stone-quiet that it was almost palpable.
“In my native country of Korea, we have Internet but cannot use the Word-wide Web,” explained one student, which shocked members of the Buena Park Noon Lions Club who sponsor the annual, “Student Speaker Contest” at the Club meeting.
The young student from Venezuela told of being shot in his native country before his family could make their way to a free America. It was truly a touching evening as each student told their own story of not having the basics that Americans take for granted each day.
Students told of not having a printed newspaper to read, as Freedom of the Press is not free in other countries as it is in America where anyone who wants to can read any number of newspapers on a daily basis.
The idea of the contest is to give students an opportunity to present their original thoughts on a chosen topic, in front of an audience – and that they did, with somber sincerity.
“The United Nations is tasked to maintain international peace and security and to develop friendly relations among nations while achieving international cooperation and to be the center for harmonizing the actions of nations…”
The seven students in the Student Speaker Contest were not only an eye-opener of what people of all ages are experiencing in other countries, but a beginning of harmony and understanding at a young age here in America. The top Student Speaker winner advances to Regional Level and on to the Zone, until one student reaches the top level of the Final Contest and receives $10,000.
The Club winner this year was Grace Karanick, 15, from Western High School in Anaheim.
Buena Park High School teacher Ron Carcich helps each year to interest students in the Student Speaker Contest and said, “It was fun to see a full ‘six-pack’ of student speakers at the first round of competition this, and last year.”
Carcich is also foreign-born in Kosovo, which perhaps gives understanding to why he’s so passionate and caring about all of his students, including foreign-born students.
“I have to hand it to the students who have to translate their speeches from their native language, into English, and then present their speech,” said Carcich. “I knew it would be difficult for some of them but I wanted them to participate.”
One student has only been in America for two years and although one student was born in America, from the age of five, to approximately a year ago, has lived in Korea.
Other student participants included Hyunah “Hayley” Lee, 18; Christi Chang, 18; Justin Loague, 17; Carlos Lopez, 16; Arian Fontal, 18, and Sukhvinder Singh, 18.