The crowd recites the Optimist’s Creed at the Great Falls Optimist Club Awards Ceremony held on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at the Great Falls Library.
Photo by Steve Hibbard.
The Great Falls Optimist Club held an awards ceremony on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at the Great Falls Library honoring exceptional youth in the community. After a crowd of about 50 people dined on a meal catered by Deli Italiano, the club gave out awards for the Optimist International Essay Contest; Oratorical Contest; and Helping Hands Recognition Awards. Children participated from schools in Great Falls, McLean, and Reston.
“I’m inspired by the children who have stepped up to compete and to be a step above in their individual schools and I congratulate them for making the effort to do what they’ve been doing,” said Linda Thompson, President of the Great Falls Optimist Club.
FOR THE ESSAY CONTEST, this year’s topic was “Can Society Function Without Respect?” Essays were 700 words minimum and were selected as the most outstanding from six area high schools and middle schools.
The first-place winner was Mackenzie Chen, 13, an eighth-grader at Longfellow Middle School. “I was trying to relate to people where they can rely on respect to function in the world. My goal was basically trying to connect people,” said Chen, the daughter of Annie Tang and Tony Chen. The second-place winner was Sam Barbaro of South Lakes High School and the third-place winner was Faraz Mirza of Longfellow Middle School
For the Oratorical Contest Winners, Robbie Folson tied for first place and received $250. “The question was ‘What Are My Roots of Optimism,’ and I based my speech around my root of optimism being my family and my teachers. And my teachers were probably the biggest part of that with my sixth-grade teacher being part of that, too,” said Folson, an eighth-grader at Langston Hughes Middle School. His parents are Rachel and Rob Folson of Reston.
Alessandra Mandala-Kol, 17, also tied for first place in the Oratorical Contest and received $250. “My goal for the speech was to convey that my roots of optimism come from love. Even though that’s a broad term, I specified exactly what I meant and how specific instances in my life have caused me to have optimism, like the love I have for my sisters, love my parents have always showed me as a young child, and how that makes my future seem so much brighter,” said Mandala-Kol, an 11th grader at South Lakes High School. Her parents are Justin and Monica Mandala-Kol of Herndon. The second-place winner was Yeojae (Jeannie) Oem of Longfellow Middle School; and the third-place winner was Mingy Qu of McLean High School.
Helping Hands Award Winners
The following students are winners of the Helping Hands Awards. Winners received a plaque and a check for $250 that goes to the student’s school.
Emily Snowden, 11, a sixth-grader at Armstrong Elementary School. “I did a lot of things to help with the homeless shelter, so I donated some money and did a project to collect towels and later on -- maybe six months ago, I had a few lemonade stands to raise money for the St. Jude’s Research Hospital and the Salvation Army,” said the daughter of Monica and Scott Snowden of Reston.
Abigail Dix, 12, a sixth-grader at Churchill Road Elementary School. “I helped my school with cleaning out invasive plant species in the backyard of our school park and we cleaned out the invasive species because it was taking over. We all loved doing it but my group especially, we went back farther and helped more in-depth and we also helped plant more plants, and I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. I love doing community service so I wanted to help my teacher a little bit more,” said the daughter of Jennifer and Joshua Dix of McLean.
Reagan Exley, 12, a sixth-grader at Colvin Run Elementary. “I made paper cranes for cancer patients. I made 1,000 paper cranes for each person. I made 5,000 paper cranes so far. I really did it to provide emotional support for the patients. It helped me form an emotional connection with them. It was amazing to see how they reacted and how much it meant to them. I felt that it was one of the special things I got to do,” said the daughter of Marilyn and Fran Exley of Great Falls.
Josie DeBellis, 11, a sixth-grader at Great Falls Elementary. “What I’ve been doing is trying to ban veal crates in Virginia, which are the crates male calves are put in after they are taken away from their mothers when they’re only an hour old in the dairy industry…So by 2019, I hope it has gone through all of the legislation so it can be banned. I have created draft letters to U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10) and have run them through my Youth Leadership Council and we are going to send them and hopefully by 2019, she will allow us to ban veal crates in Virginia,” said the daughter of Tracy and Peter DeBellis of Great Falls.
Luke Stayin, 12, a sixth-grader at Spring Hill Elementary. “In the beginning of the year, I wanted to run for Vice President of my school. I thought of ways to get that position, so for that I needed a running platform, and thought what could make Spring Hill better? I thought more school spirit so I thought we should get a school mascot, and now we actually have a Panther Mascot. It was my idea. I had a funny catch phrase: ‘Stay in Spirit with Luke Stayin.’ I also did some community service. I acolyte and lay-read for my church and I helped pick up after the Boston Marathon along with doing community service with my Boy Scout Troop,” said the son of Stephanie and Greg Stayin of McLean.