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Making A Difference With Riverbank Rotary
Rotary Youth Services Linda Gianelli, RHS students Jesus Aguiniga and Julian Lopez, and Rotary President Ana Merlo take time out for a photo opportunity at the recent Rotary meeting. Photo Contributed

Rotarians in Riverbank have been making a difference for quite some time within the community through a variety of projects and fundraisers. The club involves the youth in several different ways including an annual speech contest. This year’s theme “Making a Difference” was selected by the Rotary International President Ian Riseley.

Two local students, Jesus Aguiniga and Julian Lopez, from Riverbank High School competed at a recent Rotary meeting held at Perko’s in Riverbank. The two competitors had to write an essay on how the topic of making a difference applies to their lives. Aguiniga walked away with the top honors winning first place and receiving $125. He will represent the Riverbank Rotary Club at the Area Level Speech contest on Feb. 21 in Oakdale at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. Lopez received $100 for placing second.

“It was really nice to hear what our youth thinks,” stated Riverbank Rotary President Ana Merlo. “They both did really good.”

This is Aguiniga’s third year winning first place and he made it to the district competition last year but did not win.

“People don’t understand that once you enter the higher levels of the contest it gets even more difficult,” expressed Aguiniga. “I am hoping to get there again this year and take home first place for our Rotary Club.”

Merlo explained that Lopez focused on water and the difference Rotary makes around the world and Aguiniga’s speech was about the difference a person can make every day with every little thing and how Rotary impacts the world one day, one person at a time.

“I participate in the Rotary Speech contest because it is the one time a year that I am able to get out of my comfort zone and speak outside of my comfort zone as well,” said Aguiniga. “Our school does not offer speech and debate club on campus so this is the once in a year opportunity that I get to speak and compete against other people from different high schools as well as my own high school.”

The speech had a five-minute time limit and if they were 30 seconds short or 30 seconds too long they were penalized. The speeches were judged on quality of thought, organization, vocal delivery, physical delivery, overall effectiveness, including Rotary in the speech, and the length of speech.

Aguiniga shared in his speech how he has made a difference in the community, helped with the homeless situation in Riverbank, and that he is asked what he wants to do in the future but not who he wants to become when he grows up.

The Rotary judges were Dennis Goodman, Jake Oosterman and Monique Withrow and Stuart Landon managed the time.

“Riverbank Rotary looks forward to encouraging the students who have chosen to participate from RHS and I know they will all do an outstanding job,” added Rotary Youth Services Linda Gianelli.

The Area competition will include students from Riverbank, Oakdale, Escalon, and Salida. The first place winner will receive $175 and continue on to the District level competition in March for a grand prize of $1,000. There are over 40 students that will participate in the District speech competition.

“Our students at Riverbank High School have done very well the last few years,” stated Riverbank Unified District Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp. “They have excelled at the club and area levels and have represented the school and the Riverbank Rotary Club in a positive manner.”

The future is bright for Aguiniga, who wants to be a humanitarian and has intentions on furthering his education after high school. While waiting for a few acceptance letters Aguiniga has high hopes for possibly attending UC Berkeley and also has an upcoming interview with Harvard on the horizon.