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SELMA – Imagine how different your city, state, country and world would be without access to a free press. This was the question posed during a recent contest held by the Central Valley Lioness Lions Club.

Selma High sophomore Chloe Mendoza won the civic group’s 85th annual student speech contest where she addressed the topic, “Freedom of the Press – What Does It Mean?”

In her address, Mendoza highlighted the sacrifice of journalists murdered around the world in just 2018 alone and stressed how a free press is just as essential today as it was when the country was first founded.

“People continue to endure injustice in this country. A free press can be a tool in fighting that.”

Rather than take the press’ freedom for granted, or be overwhelmed by the access to the variety of media available today, she encourages everyone to value its role instead.

“If we truly wish to create a world we wish to live in, then we must value a free press and use it as a tool to obtain justice. Freedom of the press walks hand in hand with the very identity of our nation,” Mendoza said.

This is the 85th year that the Lioness Lions Club has hosted student speech contests. This year, Selma High sophomore Chloe Mendoza spoke on the topic “Freedom of the Press - What Does It Mean?” The event was Feb. 23 and was at Selma’s City Hall.

Lioness Pat Neal said the contest not only gives students a chance to compete, but for them to address a matter of concern “to the American people as a whole.”

After winning the Club’s event, Mendoza earns $100. The next level of competition is for the zone and winners there are awarded $150. Next will be the regional contest where winners are awarded $250. If Mendoza continues to the multi-district level, she could earn up to $21,000 in scholarships.

Mendoza is the daughter of Steve and Sonya Mendoza. She’s currently the president of the Leos Club - the youth branch affiliated with the Lions - and the sports editor for the Clarion student newspaper at Selma High.

Her career goal is to either enter politics or become a lawyer.

“I’m very passionate about social justice.”

CVLLC President Betty Alves said the speech topic is chosen each year at the international Lions Club level. Selma High career technician and scholarship specialist JonMarie Loving alerts students to enter, as do the Leos Club members.

“It’s surprising how these young students can elaborate on these topics,” Alves said of the various subjects presented for the speeches. “They always come up with some good ideas that even the City might think of doing, like the recycling. It’s great that they’re this enthusiastic.”

Judging the contest were former Selma Unified School Board member Sara Rodriguez, former SUSD Assistant Superintendent Henry Brock and Joan Murray.

“I’m very impressed with our speaker,” Rodriguez said. “It gives me faith in our youth to see someone like this. She’s so inspired to be so involved. Kudos to her and her family,” Rodriguez said.

Loving said she’s impressed by Mendoza’s maturity for taking on the task as this is the second year she’s competed.

“When she was a freshman speaking, I was so impressed. I couldn’t have done this as a freshman and not even as a sophomore. She continues to inspire me.”

Mendoza now goes on to the zone contest March 13 in Parlier. If she wins that, she’ll continue on to the regionals March 28 in Clovis and then on to the district event in Cambria.

“This is an important opportunity,” Mendoza said encouraging more students to take on the speech contest challenge. “To do research, talk about something you’re passionate about and practice your speaking skills in a room full of people is really important. In life, you’re going to have to do that and the future is sooner than later, especially for high school students. This is a skill that you need.”

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