Los17, won first place in this week's Los Gatos Afternoon Rotary Club Richard D. King Youth Speech Contest.
The competition was held Tuesday at noon at the Los Gatos Lodge during the service club's weekly meeting.
Joining Flechsig in the contest were fellow LGHS students David Zhang, a junior who earned second place; Krystopher Weeton, a sophomore who earned third place; and Kevin Luu, who earned an honorary mention.
The contest's theme this year was "peace through service."
Flechsig spoke about her sister, Natalie, being diagnosed with osteosarcoma when she was 18 years old. She's now in remission. "My livelihood turned into a blur of kind strangers bringing us lasagna."
Natalie, 23, was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. She's now attending law school at the University of California-Berkeley. "In the face of adversity, we often find ourselves asking, why? Why us? Why now and why this?" she said. "I believe that the answers to these difficult questions can come when we stop thinking about how we're being affected and start thinking about how we can affect others for the better."
Flechsig said she learned peace through service by volunteering at a camp for children who had cancer. "My worries were so painfully petty compared to what these kids faced without complaints." she said. "I quickly found my own peace of mind through these small acts of service and discovered how everything, dark and complicated, can be made incidentally more bearable by the little things."
Olivia's cash prize for winning the competition was $100. She now advances to the Area 8 Rotary District competition Feb. 5 in Campbell. If she succeeds there, she will move onto the regional Rotary competition in Morgan Hill and then the final championship for District 5170 for a $1,000 grand prize at the Meritage Resort, Napa, on March 24, 2013.
The students come from educator Sharon Smith's speech and debate team. Smith was Teacher of the Year at Los Gatos High School for 2011-12. She oversees an ambitious program that has produced state and national winners in a broad array of speech and platform events.
This year there are nearly 50 students on the team, from freshmen to seniors. They compete in 12 different events and three types of debate: parliamentary, policy and congressional.
Last year they won second in the state in parliamentary debate. They also won the Stanford invitational, the Martin Luther King Invitational, and the California Cup in parliamentary debate. Los Gatos took fourth in the nation in congressional debate last year as well.