OC Human Relations invited students in Grades 8 – 12 to prepare a short, inspirational speech on why and how young people should take a stand against bullying.  Over 100 YouthSpeak entries were received from schools across Orange County.  The 3 finalists delivered their speeches to our Board on April 14.

After much deliberation, the Board chose Western High School junior, Elisa Rodriguez, as the winner of the $500 first prize.  Jimmy Tran, a senior from Magnolia High School and Sunny Hills High School senior, Bushra Malik, were the runners-up and will receive $250 scholarships.  Thanks to our generous sponsor, Orange County’s Credit Union, for putting up the prized money!  Elisa delivered her speech on May 5 at Awards 40 and received a standing ovation.  You can watch her speech below:

Jimmy Tran, Magnolia High School: Runner-Up Speech:

Bullying, it is a weapon. Some people think bullying is small, others think it is just teasing, or just plain jokes on another, but in reality, bullying hurts people, it secludes them for who they are, and restricts them from being unique. It scars the emotions and causes depression, which leads to lasting pain, and sometimes ends in suicide. We have seen it on the news, “Phoebe Prince Suicide: Untold Story”, Young Pupil Attempts Suicide  After Repeated Bullying” or “6 Teenagers Are Charged After Classmate’s Suicide”, how many headlines does it take for a nation, or the community to realize that this is a weapon? It is sad to know that it takes the life of a person to bring the community to react, but how many deaths will it take a nation to truly see? 1, 10, 20, my friends, to witness a person suffer, cry, and fear should be enough to turn the heads of our nation. All it takes is a heart and citizenship, not a million dollar antidote, or a billion dollar cure, but just a heart willing to do what is right. Do not be afraid. Too many people look the other way; they ignore, avoid, or belittle bullying. What we say is powerful, you can choose to encourage and help, or hurt and destroy. It is very simple, respect others and control you5r words, help stop bullying, and speak up.

As the youth of America, we can stop bullying.  We can stand up f or others, and show to our peers that bullying is not right.  We can choose not to bully, join, or conform.  Stop rumors, and help people that have been victimized, help support them, and give them courage and to help, or hurt and destroy.  It is very simple, respect others and control your words, help stop bullying, and speak up.

We teens are a generation of the future; we have the ability to change and stop bullying.  As young adults we have power, we have a say, together our voices can be heard.  Believe that you are enough, believe that we are enough.  Together we can prevent bullying, stop the pain, and especially stop the torture.  Be a youth who stands for peace, respect, and harmony, not discrimination, prejudice, or hate.  United, we are the youth of America, and we can stop bullying.

Bushra Malik, Sunny Hills High School: Runner-Up Speech

We are youth, the quintessential picture of life, vigor, and, when we find it, passion.  We are youth, and when we utilize our power, we are unrivaled. With this is mind, let me take you around the world. 1944, Auschwitz, Poland. Hana Brady, 13 years old, is gassed at a Nazi concentration camp in 1944. 1994, Rwanda, Africa. Yvonne Uwera, age 5, falls victim to the Hutu-Tutsi genocide in 1994. 2005, Fullerton California. Eugene Kim, age 15, is attacked and killed after refusing to give in to the demands of a bully. Though these people had never met each other and were on opposite ends of the globe, they all have something in common. These people were antagonized and oppressed. They were all victims of bullying.

Similarly, all of us here have something n common with not only each other, but with the rest of the world—we are all human. And with that, comes certain obligations. Whether we realize it or not, bullying does not only include youth receiving threats in school, but can also include dictators who bully and wrong their citizens. So even if you don’t think you see bullying or don’t think you are affected by it, I urge you to think again. Today, over 150,000 children will miss school due to fear of bullying. Today, the death toll in places like Libya and Tunisia will rise. In a time filled with especially with injustice and destruction—bred by bullying—we must be compelled to take action. We must give a voice to those in our schools, neighborhoods, communities, and those internationally who are unable to voice their concerns themselves.

Today, especially, we cannot put off until tomorrow what we can do today. Whether it is an issue of verbal, physical, or psychological abuse, it is our responsibility as human beings to address this issue of bullying. This won’t be easy—this is not just a struggle, but a battle. However, we are youth and more importantly, the change of society. And if we direct this passion to end bullying, our success will be unrivaled. So imagine a new culture of dynamic youth. We, after all, possess the energy, ideas, alertness, and speed necessary to create positive change. If we all make the effort to end bullying on a communal level, just imagine what we can do domestically and internationally. And maybe, one day we will be the ones talked about in the history books and the speeches.