(AUGUSTA, Ga) - Six area high school students received cash prizes for speeches they submitted in the 2022 Rotary Club of Augusta speech contest. The first and second place winners delivered their speeches to a packed room at the Rotary Club’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 7, 2022 at Enterprise Mill Events Center. 

The assignment? Write 3-4 minute speeches focusing on either Rotary International’s 4-Way Test or the 2022 Rotary International theme of Service to Change Lives.  Rotary’s 4-Way Test is:

Of the things that we think, say or do:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Out of more than 30 submissions, Coralyn Cairns of Lakeside High School earned top honors in the contest, winning $1,000. As evidenced by the rousing applause, cheers and standing ovation when she finished, Coralyn’s effortless delivery and inspirational speech based on Rotary’s 4-Way Test impressed the audience.

From the start she captured the crowd’s attention stating, “I’ve always been a bit different from my peers. For instance, I dress eccentrically as you can tell.”  She proclaimed that her differences make it difficult for her to make friends at her age, “Of late, I’ve been wondering if it’s best to be myself and risk not being very social or to fit in and have more friends. I’ve been reading a lot about how psychologists in the past couple of decades have been realizing the huge importance of friendships in childhood and adolescent development.” She weighed this dilemma against the Rotary 4-Way test, “If you’re not being your authentic self, it’s a false reality. Therefore it’s not true.”  Coralyn asserted, “We’re living in a new generation where people post things on social media that aren’t representative of their true lives. It’s just for validation and likes. Then my peers think they have to fit into that mold when they’re perfect just the way they are.” She concluded quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The second place finisher Daniella Curkovic of Aquinas High School collected $750.  Her speech invoked Rotary’s theme Service to Change Lives as she drew parallels to serving in the military.

Daniella stated that fewer than one percent of Americans serve in the military and professed, “These honorable men and women give much more to their country, and to the world, than most of us will give in our lifetimes.  As they fight for justice for all people, Americans at home continue to discriminate against each other.  As they fight for security, Americans at home commit crimes against each other.  As they fight to earn peace, Americans at home selfishly and constantly argue for their own needs.  It takes a special kind of zeal to put your life on the line for a nation that will never truly appreciate your service.”  She continued, “However, as I once heard at a service camp and never forgot, ‘Maybe if we are truly serving correctly, no one will notice we are serving at all.’

Daniella closed reflecting on the current events in Ukraine, “I would like to ask you to please keep in mind not our own troops, but the brave troops and civilians of Ukraine as they dive headfirst into danger to protect the future and the sovereignty of their nation, which is the ultimate act of service.”

Sage Osiris of Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School finished third and received $500. 

The following students each earned honorable mentions winning $250 each. 

  • Anna Doster, Aquinas High School
  • Imari Coleman, Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School
  • Jason Tan, Westminster Schools of Augusta

Coralyn went on to compete at the Rotary Zone level on Saturday, April 2.  She did not win there.  The Zone winner will present their speech at the Rotary District Conference which is being held the end of this month in Augusta at the downtown Marriott.

The Rotary Club of Augusta holds the speech contest annually.  Calls for submissions are posted on the Club’s website in November.