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Optimism overcomes obstacles

Image: Ariella Zfati, fourth from right, won the Optimist International Club Contest in the younger age category for her essay about overcoming the obstacle of being a short basketball player. Her fellow KDES student Elyias Assefa, fourth from left, won in the older age category. Zfati and Assefa will each receive a $2,500 scholarship from the Optimists.

Ariella Zfati, fourth from right, won the Optimist International Club Contest in the younger age category for her essay about overcoming the obstacle of being a short basketball player. Her fellow KDES student Elyias Assefa, fourth from left, won in the older age category. Zfati and Assefa will each receive a $2,500 scholarship from the Optimists.

Ariella Zfati loves basketball. She thinks it is a fun sport and a great workout. There is one obstacle in the way of this energetic fourth grader at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES)-her height. Zfati presented an essay in American Sign Language on her basketball playing challenges at the International Optimist Communications Contest. The theme of the 2011 contest was, "How my Optimism Helps Me Overcome Obstacles." Eight KDES students, including Zfati, participated in the competition, held in Charlottesville, Va., on February 25.

"My hardship to overcome in a basketball game is the ball going over my head," said Zfati, who is 4 feet, one inch tall. "My coach encouraged me not to quit the team. He taught me some great tips about defense, offense. I learned that while I may not be the tallest, but I know I can be the fastest." Zfati encourages others to not let height get in the way of success or let it become an obstacle in life.

The objective of the competition is to encourage deaf and hard of hearing children and teens to present publicly, to build their confidence, and to promote an interest in writing. Students make a four- to five-minute presentation in either American Sign Language or spoken English before a panel of judges and a live audience. The contestants are scored on their poise, content of the speech, delivery and presentation, and overall effectiveness. The contest helps students develop the confidence to present themselves before a public audience.

Zfati and fellow KDES student Elyias Assefa won in the older and younger age categories, respectively, and each will receive a $2,500 scholarship from the Optimists. The other competing KDES students were Noah Richardson, Kenneth Garcia, Alyssa Biega, Taode Ogdan, Niqua Gray, and Mauricio Orozco.

Assefa focused his essay on not giving up. "I want to be successful. So when I face obstacles, I say to myself, ‘Eliyas trust in yourself and you will pass the problem you are facing.' When I have something to do, I don't wait until tomorrow to start. I will start today. You can do it, too. Start now, not later.'"

The International Optimist creed begins with "Promise Yourself... To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind," and ends with "To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble." Each year, for over 25 years, the Optimists have been encouraging deaf and hard of hearing students to believe in themselves and their future.