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When Jerniya Richardson, a fifth-grade student at Marshall Elementary School, walked onto the stage at the fifth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition, the audience knew something special was about to happen. Her energetic and confident performance engaged the audience and captured the full focus and attention of the judges. When the judges' scores were tallied, Richardson was named the winner of a very competitive contest. One of the highlights from her speech was her translation of the acronym for “BELIEVE IN YOU”:

B – Build relationships that can bring about a change.

E – Establish rules for your behavior at home and in public.

L – Listen to the voice of reason and learn from your mistakes.

I – Inspire others to be great.

E – Embrace all things that make you different.

V – Have a Vision, Be the Vessel, Be the Voice

E – Expect the impossible.

I – Include God in everything you do.

N – Never settle and Never give up.

Y – Yield not to temptations, and young ladies, do not be afraid to say “Me Too” because time is up.

O – Overcome by being open to change.

U – Understand that you are not a failure if you keep trying.

The final round of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition was held on the evening of Feb. 1 at New Mount Zion Church in Orangeburg. The preliminary rounds of the competition began several months ago with qualifying programs in each of the eight elementary schools in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5. The preliminary competitions determined the school champions who would move on to compete as finalists in the district-wide competition. The competition was open to fourth- and fifth-grade students, who were required to compose and present an original speech of up to five minutes on the topic: “If the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was invited to deliver the commencement speech at my graduation, this is what I believe he would say.”

The names of the students who qualified to participate in the final round of the MLK Oratory Competition, along with the schools they attend, are:

  • Jerniya Richardson, Marshall Elementary – 1st place
  • Sincere Williams, Mellichamp Elementary – 2nd place
  • Jusperious Davenport, Sheridan Elementary – 3rd place
  • Jabari Guinyard, Orangeburg Leadership Academy – finalist
  • Elayshia Brown, Bethune-Bowman Elementary – finalist
  • Chenia Robinson, Brookdale Elementary – finalist
  • Noah Coleman, Dover Elementary – finalist
  • Aaron Ulmer, Whittaker Elementary – finalist

While the final round of the competition provided great entertainment for the audience, its primary purpose was to provide fourth and fifth graders with an opportunity to develop their skills in historical research, reading, writing and public speaking in classrooms across the district.

The program began with opening remarks by Mistress of Ceremonies Dr. Mary Williams, the 2017-18 District 5 Teacher of the Year. Welcoming remarks were offered by Jessica James, the winner of the 2017 competition, followed by a high-energy musical performance by the Marshall Elementary School Drum Line.

Community leaders serving as judges for the competition were Gail Fogle, senior vice president, First Citizens Bank; Murray Garvin, head men’s basketball coach, South Carolina State University; Kenneth Middleton, president and chief executive officer, The Middleton Companies; Mary L. Smalls, retired dean of Library and Information Services at South Carolina State University; and Rev. Ellis White Jr., pastor, Edisto Fork United Methodist Church, Orangeburg.

Jimmy Jones Toyota of Orangeburg was the sponsor for the event.

Following the presentation of awards, OCSD5 Superintendent Dr. Jesse Washington congratulated the students and offered his thanks to the sponsor.

“The relationship between Jimmy Jones Toyota and the students and teachers in OCSD5 is a great example of the positive outcomes that are possible when the business community gets involved in our community’s schools,” Washington said. “We are very grateful for the support that Mr. Jones has provided for our children and public education.”


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