Service and leadership played a major factor in speeches prepared for Phi Beta Delta International Honor Society's second annual International Experiences speech competition Monday night.
Domestic undergraduate, domestic graduate and international graduate students, along with faculty, staff and alumni competed for $50 prizes in several category.
The speech contest was put on for Tech's International Education Week.
Gregory Gates, a computer science and communication major, won in the domestic undergraduate category for sharing stories about his trip to Kibwezi, Kenya with the “One Laptop Per Child” program. Gates received a grant that allowed him to take 30 laptops to one primary school in Kenya and teach the students and instructors how to use them.
Gates hoped to teach the kids how to create games, flash cards and a school newspaper with the laptops, but he said he was not successful in these efforts. However, Gates said he learned the true meaning of success on his journey.
“When you’re helping someone, it doesn’t matter what you think," Gates said.
James Gresham II, a master's student in higher education, took home first place in the domestic graduate category. Gresham spent two years in the Dominican Republic building floors and latrines for Haitian refugees.
“This trip will awe and inspire you,” Gresham said.
Gresham focused his speech on the value of the luxuries and freedoms Americans enjoy.
“The things we take advantage of go all the way from the granola bar we eat to the Blacksburg Transit on the way to class,” Gresham said.
Yi Li, a Chinese exchange student and chemistry major won first prize in the international graduate category. Li spoke about her journey as an exchange student at Tech starting with her arrival in Roanoke airport.
While Li said she adjusted to America quickly, she began to miss her home and her culture.
“I realized that I lost something in my life,” Li said.
After taking a trip to China to visit her family, Li returned to Blacksburg with her heritage restored, while maintaining an appreciation for American culture.
“I still enjoy eating burgers, sandwiches and pizza,” Li said.
Erik Olsen, class of 2003 and transportation planner for the Blacksburg Transit, won first prize in the faculty, staff, alumni category.
Olsen experienced a cultural exchange in Blacksburg, assisting a group of seven Tibetan monks who needed a place to stay during a North American tour. Olsen worked with students, faculty, staff and community members to find accommodations for the monks.
Olsen and his group arranged 11 events in a week that allowed Blacksburg and Indian cultures to merge. They also raised $7,600 that was donated to the monks for the rest of their tour.
All participants received free popcorn coupons from the Lyric and postcards from the University.
Judges included William Lewis, vice president for diversity and inclusion, Don Back, director of the language and culture institute, and Rachel Holloway, the associate dean of undergraduate academic affairs for the college of liberal arts and human sciences.
Deepu George, graduate student representative to Tech's Board of Visitors, was MC for the evening.
Contestants included Marc Egan, Gregory Gates, Krista Guerrieri, Christopher Mortweet, Alyson Snyder, Kwangseon Hwang, Yi Li, Kiran Pvuluri, James Gresham II, Leighton Vila, Erik Olsen and Tom Willard.