Lockhart ES student wins annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition

Fifth-grader wins $1,000 prize for original speech inspired by civil rights leader

Lockhart Elementary School fifth-grader Nyla Johnson channeled both Thomas Jefferson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while presenting her winning speech at the 23rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition.

Nyla was awarded first place for her original speech titled “What Would Dr. King Say?” The event was held Friday at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Christ in downtown Houston. Johnson was among 12 HISD students to participate in the final round of the competition sponsored by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. 

Nyla Johnson, Lockhart Elementary School

The program invites fourth- and fifth-grade students to write and present a short original speech that envisions King’s message in today’s world. This year’s theme was “What would Dr. King say to the children of today’s world?”

“I know what Dr. King fought for, and I knew how he would say it,” Nyla, a second-year finalist in the competition, said after being announced as the winner. “My mother always says, ‘The world is what you make it’, and I wanted to honor what those before me did to get to where we are today.”

Second-place winner Asia Jefferson of Blackshear Elementary School tackled school bullying, and third-place winner Chrisette Wigfall of Askew Elementary School called for increased civic awareness amongst her peers.

Asia Jefferson, Blackshear Elementary School

During the competition, students are judged based on delivery, stage presence and decorum, content interpretation, and memorization. The winner was awarded a $1,000 prize. The second-place winner received a $500 prize while the third-place winner was presented with a $300 prize.  A $100 monetary award was given to the remaining finalists.

“I’m honored to have witnessed the outstanding speeches given by our incredible HISD students,” HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “I’m in awe of how in tune the 12 finalists are to what is happening in our country, our city and across our school district. It’s powerful to know that 9- and 10-year-olds know what is going on and were able to articulate that here today.”

Chrisette Wigfall, Askew Elementary School 

More than 200 students participated at in-school rounds held late last year to qualify for 24 positions to represent their schools at the semifinals. Twelve finalists were then selected to advance.

The winner also will be recognized at the Children’s Museum of Houston MLK celebration on Monday. The winning speeches can be viewed online at Facebook.com/HoustonISD.

Other finalists are: