Some writers can stand on stage, all alone and before rows and rows of people, and recite original poetry. Others prefer to keep a lower profile.
At this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Fest, a new competition gave stage-shy students a chance to shine. About 50 students in Oakland’s public and private middle schools entered an essay contest. They submitted short persuasive pieces on people, living or dead, who have benefitted humanity.
I was one of the judges for the final competition, and I’ve posted links to their essays so you can read them too. (Note: We determined the winners before learning the writers’ names or where they went to school.)
The first-place winner was Sophia Denison-Johnston (right), an eighth-grader at the private Redwood Day School. She wrote a piece titled “Martin Delaney – AIDS Activist and Lifesaver.”
Second place went to Emily Zierdt-Smith, of Montera Middle School, who wrote about Greg Mortenson (author of “Three Cups of Tea”) in “A Man’s Dream for a Better Society.” Sarah Phillips, a seventh-grader at Redwood Day, also wrote about Mortenson in an essay titled, “An Inspiration.”
Honorable Mentions went to: Francisca Ramirez, Elmhurst Community Prep, for “He Made a Difference,” about Martin Luther King, Jr.; Quinn Sullivan, Montera Middle School, for “Unexpected Art Form,” about Marie Antoinette; and Chavante Travillian, Frick Middle School, for “Mary Bethune, African American Educator.”
Congratulations to all of the winners. Keep on writing!