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Kindness Is a Winning Message for Boys Town Central Florida Teen

Edward Grillo

What is one thing you can do right now to make your corner of the world a little better, a little brighter and a little kinder? That question was asked and answered in an inspiring (and winning!) speech by Edward Grillo, a resident of Boys Town Central Florida's Family Home ProgramSM.

Edward won first place in the Florida High School High Tech Speech and Research Contest sponsored by The Able Trust, an organization that promotes tech-related careers for high school students.

For eight minutes, Edward spoke from the heart and personal experience about the transformational power of kindness. With references to Mahatma Gandhi, Saint Teresa of Calcutta and his own life story, Edward advocated for more compassion and understanding in a world too often consumed by cynicism and callousness.

"The world is often a very scary place. One of cruelty, sadness and pain. Yet, in this world, there are people who are beacons of hope and show love to others in spite of those facts. You probably call them regular people, but I call them the heroes of tomorrow."

Edward challenged his audience to be the change they want to see in their families, neighborhoods and communities. It was a persuasive, inspiring call to action.

"People came up to me and said they were extremely touched by the speech," Edward said. "They felt moved and inspired to go out and do acts of kindness, which was humbling to hear."   

Edward advanced to the state contest in Tallahassee after winning local and regional competitions. He described the whole experience, which included tours of the state capitol building and governor's office, as "amazing." In addition to claiming first place, Edward earned a trophy and a $400 cash prize.

Edward credited his Boys Town Central Florida family for helping him learn how to "read the room" and use the audience's reactions to improve his tone and delivery.

"At the local contest, some people actually stopped paying attention to me and got on their phones. My Family-Teachers® helped me come up with ideas to keep people really engaged in the speech," Edward said. 

"I am a living example of what can happen when we decide to stay positive and not give in to our negative thoughts and emotions."

Boys Town staff also provided much-needed emotional support to Edward after his father's untimely death.  

"My Family-Teachers did a great job of keeping me comforted and looking forward to the competition so I didn't fixate on grief," explained Edward.

While Edward is grateful for the awards and accolades, he said having a platform to promote more kindness in the world is what proved to be most satisfying. His victory coincided with the Boys Town Alumni Association's mini-reunion, held in Orlando, and he was honored to share his message with visiting alumni.  

According to John Mollison, Senior Advisor for Alumni Matters, Edward's speech drew an enthusiastic standing ovation and was one of the most memorable reunion moments.

"Edward held the audience spellbound with his delivery and, more so, because of the message of people caring for each other. It was certainly inspiring," John said.

"Do you want to be a world-changer, or an idle bystander?"

The 17-year-old hopes to one day turn his passion for technology into a career. But he also wants to be an advocate for foster children and others who are in difficult circumstances.    

"A lot of the situations kids like me come from can be very negative," Edward explained. "It's not all sunshine and rainbows. It can leave you with a lot of anger. A lot of sadness. I say if you feel angry, write your feelings. If you're sad, use that to your advantage. If you use your emotions to your advantage, you're going to go a long way."

*This story features excerpts from Edward's winning speech. You can read the complete transcript HERE.