Sophia Liu from Eden Lake Elementary won first place and Maeve Atkinson from Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion took second place in the Oratorical Contest hosted by the Eden Prairie Optimist Club on April 5.
Following their success in the local contest, the two fifth graders went on to compete against winners from other Optimist Clubs in the metro area on April 15 at Dakota Hills Middle School in Eagan. Atkinson finished in third place at the Zone Contest.
This year’s theme was “Discovering the Optimism Within Me?” Read both Liu and Atkinson’s speeches below.
The top finishers in the Eden Prairie contest received gold, silver, and bronze medallions, as well as Barnes & Noble gift cards for their achievements. Third place went to Amogh Singh, a seventh grader at Central Middle School.
For over 25 years, the Eden Prairie Optimist Club has participated in the Optimist Oratorical Contest and has been active in the community since 1978. Along with the oratorical contest, the club is involved in other programs and service projects, including the Floyd Berntsen Annual Hooked on Fishing Event, the Annual Optimist Kids “OK5K” on the Fourth of July, the Eden Prairie Sings! competition, and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society Solar Boat Regatta.
Taking action and embracing optimism: Lessons learned from community involvement
By Sophia Liu
Ever since I was little, I wanted to help my community. I had my 6th birthday at Feed My Starving Children in Chanhassen. We packed meals and had fun. My friends had a good time, too. A few even went back to volunteer again!
That year, I didn’t ask for gifts. Instead, my friends bought canned foods to donate to the food shelf in Eden Prairie. I believe, no matter how big or small, it is important to take action in your community.
This experience later encouraged me to found a neighborhood club called The Kids Club, where we do odd jobs and sell snacks. Afterwards, we donate our funds to Feed My Starving Children. To me, paying it forward is very important. When you pay something forward, good karma will come. When you’re nice to a friend, they might do something nice for you!
I’m going to tell you two different stories about times I was optimistic and how that optimism paid off. I’m telling you the stories because I hope you will feel encouraged to take action in your communities.
I am a proud Taiwanese American. I love to volunteer at cultural events such as the Festival of Nations in Minnesota and the International Cultural Festival in Wisconsin. I love these events because I get to promote my heritage and learn about different countries and their traditions. Taiwan is very special to me because most of my family lives there and I love their food, the views, and the wildlife.
If you know me well, you would know that turtles are my favorite animals on the planet. Last year, my mom and I decided to go scuba diving to see green sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean while we were in Taiwan. But I did not know how to pop my ears, which is essential to scuba diving. So I could not go down to see the turtles. I chose to be optimistic and waited patiently for the turtles to come up to us. Later, my instructor and I swam to the shallow coral reef nearby. I got to swim alongside a gigantic green sea turtle who wanted seaweed for lunch. Even though I did not dive as deep as my mom, I found ways to be optimistic and still have fun. Feeling connected to Taiwan makes me feel optimistic. It also makes me want to think flexibly and connect with more people from different backgrounds.
My mom is a speech-language pathology professor, so sometimes, in the summer, I get to talk with stroke survivors and memory loss patients. They have communication difficulties. I learn to talk with them. I enjoy being around people with dementia because they all have unique stories and backgrounds. We share stories and smell fresh produce in a dementia-friendly garden. We laugh, sing, and talk while sitting in the shade and give warm hugs to each other. We snack on watermelon, ice cream, and fresh tomatoes. I believe it’s very important to understand what people are going through and support them. It is my optimistic way to show care and connect with people in my community.
I would like you to remember these three points: First, no matter how big or small, the action that you take might benefit others. Second, always be proud of your heritage and where you are from. And lastly, optimism is a central part of activities in our community. My hope is that you will feel encouraged to take action in your community. Thank you for listening.
From mountains to music: How optimism can help you conquer anything
By Maeve Atkinson
The first step, I think, to being an optimist is not giving up. Hard things can sometimes feel like you are climbing a mountain. Sometimes these hard things are painful, tiring, and take a long time. But if you keep persisting, and when YOU get to the top of that mountain, it feels REAL GOOD! Doesn’t it?
One of the hardest mountains I’ve ever climbed is when I climbed over a real mountain. YES, I have climbed over a real mountain before. Honestly, I was already tired when we got to the base of the mountain. For my little 9-year-old legs, walking a half-mile to where we were going to hike was not ideal. I actually thought for a while that we were going to walk over to see the mountain and then walk back to the car. I mean, of course, I did. It was raining outside, and my legs were killing me while we walked up the paved bottom part of the mountain. I really wanted to turn back. I really did. But I kept reminding myself that at the top of the mountain, it would LOOK REALLY COOL. Soon enough, we were hiking up the mountain. I recall when we were partway up the mountain, half of my brain was telling me “YOU GOT THIS,” and the other half of my brain was telling me “TURN AROUND.”
I thought it was going to be BREATHTAKING to see the city from the top of the mountain. Well, that didn’t happen. By the time we reached the top of the mountain, we were in a cloud. Disappointing, RIGHT?
But I found something in me that I hadn’t found before … OPTIMISM. Even though I didn’t achieve seeing the city from up high, I was on the top of a mountain. I kept going, even though I didn’t want to. By the time we were at the top, my whole brain was telling me — YOU GOT THIS & YOU ARE GOING TO FINISH. Optimism and very supportive Norwegian relatives helped me climb the first and perhaps the biggest mountain I will ever climb. Optimism has made me a better person. Not only has it made me happier, but it has also made me nicer and more confident.
Since I succeeded in climbing over a real mountain, I’ve climbed over other mountains, too, FIGURATIVELY. I started playing the violin when I was 6 years old. Last year I tried out for a citywide orchestra called GTCYS (GTCYS stands for Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony). It was a little bit scary to walk into the first practice. I didn’t know anyone, and when I tried to play the music, it was harder than the music I was used to playing. But I smiled and made some friends who helped me learn the music.
What I have learned this year in GTCYS is that my conductor, Mary Sorlie, doesn’t care if we’re tired, and that you’re not going to get good at something if you don’t practice. Like, one time I had to memorize a song called “Jupiter.” This was because that performance was optional. So, for a long time, I thought I wasn’t going to be doing this performance. Anyways, I signed up for the orchestrating opportunities and started to memorize “Jupiter.” For the first 10 minutes of practicing, I just kept thinking to myself, there is no way I can memorize this, nevertheless play it correctly with the music in front of me.
But I remembered that pretty much the same thing happened to me when I was climbing a mountain, and that turned out to be one of my favorite parts of that vacation. So, I kept practicing, and two days later, I went to Orchestra Hall and performed “Jupiter.” Performing there was so much fun, and it was just because I was optimistic that I could do it.
When you set your mind to something, there is a really good chance you will succeed. Succeeding is a lot of fun for me, so I try harder. Now, I feel like I’ve completed the first step to being an optimist. Everyone has times when they want to give up, and those are some examples of when I was going to give up. But I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t. I couldn’t have completed either of these things without optimism. THANK YOU!
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