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Top student speechmakers selected at Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest

MLK Oratorical Contest competitors post with members of the Ohio MLK Commission

Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission members pose with youth orators.

COLUMBUS – Ohio students inspired by the lessons and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr. presented original speeches on his teachings during the 21st Annual Statewide MLK Oratorical Contest held today in Columbus.

Twenty-eight regional contest winners from grades one through 12 spoke before judges and others at the King Arts Complex.

“Congratulations to all of the students who participated today,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “I’m proud Ohio is home to so many young people who are carrying on Dr. King’s legacy by focusing on the importance of his teachings.”

The contest is sponsored by the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission, which receives administrative support from the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.

“Thank you to these students who truly embody the mission of the MLK Commission to advocate Dr. King's principles of nonviolence and continue to carry out Dr. King's dream of service to others,” said Rev. Joel L. King, Jr., vice chair of the commission and cousin to the late Dr. King.

Contestants were judged on performance, originality and composition. The following speakers placed in the top of their respective divisions:

Senior Division (grades nine through 12)

First place – Linden M. Young, Franklin Heights High School, Columbus

Runners-up – Precious Okoroafor, Olentangy Berlin High School, Delaware; and Helena Savannah, Pickerington High School Central, Pickerington

Junior Division (grades six through eight)

First place – Adonia Balqis, Dominion Middle School, Columbus

Runners-up – Aarini Patel, Hilliard Tharp Middle School, Hilliard; and Olivia Cox, Columbus Gifted Academy, Columbus

Intermediate Division (grades three through five)

First place – Jasmine Davis, Grace Christian School, Blacklick

Runners-up – Jai’Vionna Ferguson-Allen, Winton Hills Academy, Cincinnati; and Arav Patel, Hilliard Tharp Arrow School, Hilliard

Primary Division (grades one and two)

First place – Kylie Elizabeth Harmon, Pleasant Hill Academy, Cincinnati

Runners-up – Jenniyah Humphrey, Marion-Sterling Elementary School, Cleveland; and Niyla Danner, Marion-Sterling Elementary School, Cleveland

The contests’ first-place finishers will be invited to speak at the 2023 Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration set for Jan. 12, 2023.