For recently graduated Minarets senior Mikayla Kopp, who just turned 18, it has been a hectic year. She was not only busy with academics, extra-curricular senior activities, and planning her future post high school, but has competed in the 77th annual Lions Club Student Speakers Competition since March. This year's topic Community Service: What does it mean and why does it matter?
"My initial speech was awful in my opinion," Kopp admitted. "I wrote it in 20 minutes and hardly had time to practice, however at the club level you're allowed to have cards. The actual speech that I used at the next level was practically a different speech. I kept the introduction and conclusion paragraph, but everything else was changed. Those edits took me a week of writing, taking a break, and then coming back to rewrite it again. I practiced during every moment of free time I had over the next week before competing at the zone level."
Kopp practiced by muttering to herself in silent rooms, repeating the words over and over, and once she felt comfortable in her memorization, she first gave her speech to her bookshelf, and finally to her mother.
"I've been to every competition," North Fork Lions Club member John Norby said, "and Mikayla's biggest leap was from the club-to-zone levels. I couldn't believe it was the same person. No one was very prepared at the club level, and in a matter of just a few weeks, she had her speech fine-tuned and completely memorized. I went up to her afterwards and told her that her speech was as good as last year's speeches in the finals."
Kopp's diligence and focus paid off not only at the zone level but resulted in her winning at all levels prior to the state final competition, held last month in Pasadena. Even though she came in second at the finals, Kopp has grown in her public speaking abilities and is very proud of her accomplishment.
"It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me to see so much talent and so many different speaking styles. Honestly, I am never that confident," Kopp explained. "I walked in with a nervous butterfly feeling, while appearing as calm as I can. I usually gain or loose confidence as the other speakers go. I know when I am up against a practiced speaker because of their mannerisms and voice fluctuation. I always try to hold onto my confidence but I like to keep my mind open to the fact that there is always someone better."
Kopp has been speaking in public for four years. In 2013, she competed in the Lions Club Speech competition at the first level (club), but did not move forward. This year was different. After winning at all levels preceding the state finals, she walked away with a combined total of $11,000, which will be used to help with her college tuition at Fresno State, where she will major in ag education. Her goal is to become a high school science teacher and run FFA programs through her courses.
"Mikayla did a fantastic job," Norby said. "She was a great representative for our club and we're very proud of her."
"Finals was a very tough competition," Kopp added. "There were seven judges and three amazing competitors. Even though I lost, I'm still happy with myself because I competed against such talented speakers. I'm also happy that North Fork Lions Club sponsored me. It was such a great opportunity."
Kopp's speech in its entirety follows:
"It takes a village to raise a child." This quote was constantly told to me by my mother as I was growing up. Being a single mom, this seemed illogical for her to tell me, there was no village, there was only her. However, age had allowed me to see past my own household and into the village in order to understand what my mother was originally trying to tell me.
She was not saying that it took a village to raise myself or my sister, but rather that it takes many people to make a person who they are. The community that you grow up in can change everything. How one perceives the world and how they deal with difficult situations. So when asked about community service, what does is mean and why does it matter, the answer seemed simple to me it means to make a difference in the lives of people around you.
First we are asked to define Community Service and what it means. By definition community means a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. Service, on the other hand, is the action of helping or doing work for someone. Together they create the technical definition of community service which is stated to be a service that a person performs for the betterment of his or her own local community. However community service means something different to everyone involved. In this particular type service there are three main parts; the initiator, the participate and the receiver.
The initiator is usually an idealist who first begins a project in their community. In 1942 Linda Fuller and Clarence Jordan established the idea which would soon evolve into the organization that we now know as Habitat for Humanity. At the Koinonia farm, just outside of Americus, Georgia, Linda and Clarence developed the concept of "partnership housing." This was an action centered on those in need of sufficient shelter by working side-by-side with volunteers to help build simple and decent homes. What once started as a simple concept within their community has now grown to help build or repair over 800,000 houses; affecting more than four million people across the globe. To Linda and Clarence, the action of of community service meant that they had created something that would impact the people around them.
The second part of community service is the participant or volunteer. My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago. She became a survivor five years ago. On the year that she completed her chemotherapy, my family decided to make it a mothers day tradition to attend the annual Relay for Life held in Sacramento. May 1985, the very first Relay for Life was held in Tacoma, Washington and within 24 hours, it raised over $27,000 dollars for cancer research. In comparison, the organization today now raises over 400 million dollars annually because of the 3.5 million who participate in it every year. To the participant, community service is about an action that is close to their hearts. After all it is better to spend the day serving others than serving yourself.
The final part of community service is the recipient. This could be someone who now lives in one of the 800,000 houses built or repaired by Habitat for Humanity or someone whose life was saved thanks to the 400 million dollars donated by Relay for Life. However, to be affected by community service, it doesn't need to be a part of a large organization.
People begin community service projects in their area every day. In my community we have a lake side clean-up, a women's drive to help single moms and a donation drop-off center for those who have lost their possessions due to increased wild fires over the summer. To these people community service brings joy and thanks to their lives. They are sheltered, kept healthy and their lives made better thanks to community service. You see community and service means something different to every person apart of it and it is because of that, that it is nearly impossible to define it with one simple definition. However, it is in my belief that community service is to make a difference in the lives of people around you, no matter what size.
Now that it is understood what community service is, we are asked why does it matter? The easiest way for me to explain this is through names, names like Alford McMichael and Helen Welch. Helen Welch is an Information Resources Analyst for the American Red Cross. Ms. Welch was in the Philippines assessing the damage and setting up relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan in November of 2013. Along with 10 other Red Cross groups, the American Red Cross helped Helen get construction back up and running in the Philippines. Her passion for service has driven her to help in something that truly matters, getting millions of people back on their feet. In an interview Helen remarked "This is a 'round the clock operation teams aren't slowing down; they're only getting faster." This is a symbol of how people's hard work and dedication can make an impact in the lives of people around them.
The second name is Alford McMichael. McMichael is a retired United States Marine who served as the 14th Sergeant Major of the U.S. Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003. Sergeant McMichael served his country honorably and in return received a Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit medal. Many, however, did not know that this man was a part of the organization known as the Boys and Girls Club.
This is an organization dedicated to enabling all young people, especially those who need it most, to become young, caring, and productive citizens. Mr. McMichael accredits the Boys and Girls Club for helping him develop his vision of what the world should be like. With the club being the only non-segregated place to play as a young child in Hot Springs, Arkansas, it made an impact on this man's life. This non-discriminative environment gave Alford the chance to create and achieve his dream of becoming the first African American Sergeant Major, making history in the Marine Corps.
After being awarded with the honor of becoming a member of the Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame, he remarked "You made a difference in one child's life." Many like him have had their lives changed by the boys and girls club, in fact nearly 57 percent of alumni have openly admitted that the Boys and Girls Club saved their lives. It was in this number, this percentage, that I finally understood why community service matters.
Many do not have the support that I grew up with and without it, it is easy to make mistakes or wrong decisions. Through community service we can show them a path that they can take to better their lives.
I am a reflection of my community. It is in these words that service within the community is defined to me and why it matters that it is carried on throughout the generations to come. Everything that one does affects others. If people dedicate their time to participating in positive actions, they will leave their area better than before. Through community service we change our area, our people and ourselves.