Nine area students spoke on their visions of change in light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, each with hopes of winning the second annual Essay and Oratorical contest.

The students shared speeches, which had to be a minimum of 250 words, Saturday afternoon on the stage of the Lyceum of the Nicholas P. Sims Library in Waxahachie.

Speeches addressed topics that surround equality and unity from the perspective of young minds. Each address had the requirement to begin and end with “I have a vision.”

Contestants spoke and were awarded in one of three categories —elementary, junior high and high school.

Rihanna Acosta, a fourth-grade student at Stafford Elementary School in Italy, was first to take the lectern and was also awarded first place in the elementary classification.

“The message was to make the world a better place and to let people get along and stop killing people,” Acosta explained.

She shared the importance behind her participation was to come out so more people could hear her message and would feel more comfortable with the concept of unity.

When she heard she earned first place, she thought, “Thank you, God, for making me do this speech.”

Kyla Lewis, a seventh-grade student from Desoto East Middle, presented a very inspiring speech, which earned first place recognition.

“My speech was about families living in deprivation and poverty,” Lewis detailed.

Other critical topics in her speech included the need to put more efforts into schools to provide quality education to students with autism, the need to end crime, terrorism and war.

“Also, racism is a bad act, and we cannot have that happening in this world because we all bleed the same blood,” Lewis elaborated.

Lewis voiced to the audience that she related to the topics in her speech and noted her mother is a flight attendant and she has autism.

“I have something that other kids don’t and relating to Dr. Martin Luther King and the impact that he put on us and how we can put that energy back because of the things he did for us,” was the reason why it was vital for Lewis to share her vision.

When she was announced the middle school winner, she thought, “I don’t know how I did it. Usually, I’m scared of crowds and everything, so I don’t know how this happened.”

Waxahachie resident and Milford High School senior, Addison Alexander Jr., was recognized with a first-place trophy in the high school division.

“I wanted to come out today to give my ideas — my vision — just like how Dr. Martin Luther King had his dream about coming together and co-existing,” Alexander said. “My vision is kind of similar.”

His speech revolved around equality and humanity. He touched on that everyone has their own differences, and in the end, all those individuals have the same blood, and we are all human beings and have a common thread.

When he heard that he got first place, “I was totally excited I got first place. I just couldn’t believe it.”

He then reflected on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and explained, “This day is more important than me and everybody else. Martin Luther King was a great person. He fought for everybody for equality and was a really bold person.”

The second annual Essay and Oratorical contest was judged by Theo Acker, an English and creative writing teacher at Waxahachie High School, Ben Brown who is a member of the Ennis Negro Chamber of Commerce, as well as, Kevin Nesmith who is a guidance counselor at Finley Junior High.

The Ellis County African American Hall of Fame and the local chapter of the Bethsadia Lodge #168 sponsored the event.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450