The contest encourages students to reflect on an experience and ask themselves four questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Does it build good will and better friendship? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Harold Hyman, a 37-year member of the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, led the committee that oversaw this year’s local contest. He and four other judges read essays submitted by students from first grade through high school.
The winners were announced April 25 at a Rotary Club luncheon at the North Ranch Country Club. Out of 64 entries, there were 13 winners—three each from elementary, middle and high school, as well as four honorable mentions.
“The first-place winner gets a $175 prize, second place gets $100, third gets $50 and the honorable mention gets $50,” Hyman said. “Five people read the essays. They’re all judged on six categories, like composition, originality, grammar, the reviewer’s impression of the overall essay and whether they covered all four of the tests.”
Hyman said the Rotary Club reaches out to 30 local schools and encourages teachers to participate by telling their students about the contest or making it a class assignment. They also post flyers at the schools so students can participate independently.
Malavika Ranjit, a junior at Oak Park High, won third place in the high school category. Her essay discussed her experience moving from India to America and frequently changing schools.
“By the time I was in the sixth grade I had been in six different schools. I had moved almost every year and had to make new friends everywhere I went,” Ranjit said.
In her essay she used the Four- Way Test to examine how her decision to strive for popularity ultimately left her unhappy and didn’t form any meaningful friendships.
Other contest winners wrote about making hard choices during their parents’ divorce, giving gifts to the less fortunate during the holidays and rescuing horses during the Thomas fire earlier in the year. All of them spoke about how the Four-Way Test gave them an insight into their experience, and how they would use it as they moved forward with their lives.
The test was created in 1932 by Chicago-based Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor. His goal was to change the ethical climate of a company he was working at.
“What we needed,” he said in his autobiography, “was a simple, easily remembered guide to right conduct—a sort of ethical yardstick which all of us in the company could memorize and apply to what we thought, said and did.”
When Taylor became president of the Chicago Rotary in 1938, he introduced the Four-Way Test to the Rotary world. In 1952, he gave the organization permission to promote the test worldwide.