PALM DESERT — The coronavirus quarantine failed to prevent 13 Palm Desert High School students from competing in the Rotary Club of Palm Desert’s annual Rotary Four-Way Test Speech Contest on Tuesday, March 31.

Contest co-chairs, Rotarian Mary Scott and Toastmaster Dominique Fruchtman, along with five other Rotary and Toastmaster volunteers, supported the students through an eight-week mid-January through March preparatory program of seminars and mentoring culminating in the students’ speeches.

For what has historically been a live competition, the team took a “whatever works” approach after weekly individual meetings were suspended in mid-March due to the coronavirus.  Determined to keep the contest going, the Rotarian and Toastmaster mentorship team maintained communication with the students using text messaging, e-mail, Google Docs, Zoom and other technology to collaborate remotely.

“The volunteer effort of making the 4-Way Test Contest happen during the past several years has been one of the most rewarding I’ve experienced,” Scott said. “But this year especially provided wonderful growth for everyone with the challenging task of keeping this contest alive with the restrictions we all faced.”

Judges who viewed the 13 participants’ speeches on a private YouTube channel declared four winners on April 4.  First place went to sophomore Lauren Trippeer (“Effort: The Drive Within”), freshman Tara Bakhshi Dezfuli (“Before You Discriminate”) received second place; third place went to freshman Emma Bibo (“Immigration: A Different View”) and fourth place to junior Jason Davalos (“A Runaway Drum Corps Dream”).  In addition to the four winners, all participants received certificates of completion.

“We’re really proud of the students for being so committed,” Scott said.  “They were determined to improve their speaking skills and working together, we found new ways for them to achieve their goals.”

The event is designed to introduce high school students to Rotary and to the Rotary Four-Way Test through a competitive speech contest.  The organization’s statement of principles is the Rotary 4-Way Test “of the things we think, say or do: Is it the TRUTH?  Is it FAIR to all concerned?  Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?  Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?”  Contestants were invited to speak on any topic for their five-to-eight-minute speeches as long it related to the four principles.

The Rotary Club of Palm Desert is made up of business owners, city employees, teachers, politicians, professional people and retirees. The mission of the club, whose motto is Service Above Self, is to support our community and to bridge both local and worldwide projects in the areas of child and maternal health, literacy and education, community and economic development, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, and conflict resolution and prevention.  The club often partners locally, regionally, nationally and globally with other organizations on projects.

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  • Palm Desert Speech Competition: DSUSD