Crespo ES student wins annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition

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

Crespo Elementary School fourth-grader Brandon Curbow tackled the timely topics of school safety and gun control while presenting his winning speech at the 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition. 

Curbow was awarded first place for his original speech that walked the audience through the feelings a student grapples with during an active shooter drill. 

The event was held Friday at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Christ in downtown Houston. Curbow was among 12 HISD students to participate in the final round of the competition sponsored by Foley & Lardner LLP.  

Brandon Curbow, Crespo 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’s vision be for America in 2020?” 

“Gun control is a difficult issue that still affects us today,” Curbow said during his winning speech. “If Dr. King was here today, I am sure he would have a plan to make America safe again.” 

Second-place winner Ayomide Lawrence of Blackshear Elementary School channeled the essence of Dr. King during his speech, and third-place winner Jenny Teague of Sutton Elementary School invited the audience into the world of her YouTube Channel: Jenny Justified.  

Ayomide Lawrence, 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. 

“Our students are in tune and connected to what is happening in our city and also in our country,” Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “I was thoroughly impressed with all of today’s participants.” 

Jenny Teague, Sutton 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 to the final. 

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

Other finalists are: