Crespo ES student wins 25th annual MLK Jr. Oratory Competition

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

Crespo Elementary School fourth-grader Vivianna Serna used her own experience with discrimination amongst friends as a guide for her winning speech at the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition. 

Serna was awarded first place for her original speech that tackled hate and bigotry between friends, stating that Dr. King’s teachings showed her that she must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.

The event was held Friday at HISD’s Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. Serna was among 12 HISD students to participate in the final round of the Foley & Lardner LLP-sponsored competition, which marks its 25th anniversary this year.

Vivianna Serna, 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 “How do you think Dr. King’s teachings can help us today?” 

“My character should not be judged by the color of my skin. You should call someone a friend because they are trustworthy and kind,” Serna said during her winning speech. “I choose to be colorblind. I’d rather be colorblind than let the color of someone else’s skin get in the way of them being my best friend.” 

Second-place winner Pahy’tton Williams of Foster Elementary School implored adults to stop fighting and work together during her speech, and third-place winner Jakiyah Bickham of Pleasantville Elementary School said the world needed more compassion to fight poverty and racism.  

Pahy’tton Williams , Foster 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. 

“The boys and girls competing here today are keeping hope alive,” Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan said. “We hope this competition provides everyone with an opportunity to reflect on the slain civil rights leader’s contributions to the American civil rights movement and connect his teachings with the issues we face today.”

 Jakiyah Bickham , Pleasantville Elementary School 

In honor of the competition’s 25th year, HISD Communications created a commemorative video, which aired during the judges’ deliberations.

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 students were then selected to advance to the finals. 

Other finalists are:  

  • Goodwill Nsude – Valley West ES, fifth grade
  • Skylar Stevenson – James H. Law ES, fourth grade
  • Madison Jones Austin – Young ES, fifth grade
  • Jada Rountree- Dogan ES, fifth grade
  • Mikeen Holiday – Kate Bell ES, fourth grade
  • Channing Roberts – MacGregor ES, fourth grade
  • Kamila Reyes – Sutton ES, fourth grade
  • Andrianna Harden – Bastian ES, fifth grade
  • Jason Hudson – Atherton ES, fifth grade