District holds first-ever Student Oratorical Contest
Six finalists moved on to the final round of the School District of Philadelphia’s first Student Oratorical Contest, an event showcasing the talents of high school students. The event, which was hosted by Philadelphia-born rapper Chill Moody, was broadcasted on Facebook Live on Friday, February 26 at 4:00 p.m.
Nearly 20 students submitted an original three-minute long speech, poem or spoken-word piece centered around this year’s theme, “My Philadelphia, My Future.” Students were encouraged to explore how they envision being an authentic contributor to the future of Philadelphia.
“The goal of this contest is to provide students with an opportunity to display their leadership skills, while sharing their unique values, opinions, beliefs, and perspectives in a creative, cultural, and identity-inclusive academic setting,” said Malika Savoy-Brooks, Ed.D., Chief Academic Supports Officer of the School District of Philadelphia. “It’s been extremely humbling for me to hear from these brilliant and artistic students. Partnering with our youth is key to transforming our community, and hearing them offer their unconventional thinking and innovative ideas brings me optimism for the future of Philadelphia.”
The finalists were Taylor Bennett (junior, The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts), Yallis Correa (freshman, Murrell Dobbins Career & Technical Education High School), Akili DeBrady (senior, Central High School), Antoinette Ellis (freshman, Parkway Center City Middle College), Laila Johnson (sophomore, Central High School) and Ramiyah Wilson (sophomore, W.B. Saul High School).
Students will be judged by John Barber, chief development officer for The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia; Teyona Jackson, Art Speaks program coordinator and museum educator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Dr. Allener Baker-Rogers, co-author of They Carried Us: The Social Impact of Philadelphia’s Black Women Leaders; Pearl Schaeffer, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership; and Ivan Henderson, vice president of programming at The African American Museum in Philadelphia.
The contest was open to all School District of Philadelphia students in grades 9-12 and submissions were accepted through December 31, 2020. Public voting, which names this year’s People’s Choice Award, ended February 17 and took place through the district’s website.
The oratorical contest was developed through the Office of Academic Supports as a platform for students to amplify their voices and creatively share issues and concerns that are relevant to their experiences as young people in Philadelphia. The contest is also part of a greater effort to promote student engagement and the importance of strong oratorical and writing skills, which are some of the biggest indicators of success later in life.
The winner of the contest will receive an Apple iPad and will appear at a future School District of Philadelphia event. Second and third place winners will receive gift cards, with the second place winner also appearing as a special guest at a future district event. The top three finalists will receive a pair of Morpheus 360® wireless headphones. Senior submissions will be entered for a chance to win a School District of Philadelphia Scholarship from the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.