HISD students pay tribute to MLK Jr. at oratory competition

HOUSTON -- If Dr. King were alive today, what would he say about Muhammad Ali's contribution to society? Students from 12 HISD elementary schools gathered Friday morning to answer that question at the 21st Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition.

Nhedrick Jabier, a fourth grader at Crespo Elementary, took home top honors at the competition at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Christ.

"We all can be great. And we have to stand up for each other to do what's right," Jabier said.

FULL VIDEO: 21st Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition
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Students pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 21st Annual Gardere MLK Jr. Oratory Competition

Windsor Village Elementary fourth grader Zyahra Barnes came in second place, and Blackshear Elementary fifth grader Kamarah Pennamon in third.

The judging panel was comprised of local and federal officials and ABC13's own Melanie Lawson.

"We were in there arguing like crazy, but what a wonderful job we have to do, to chose between these exceptional people," Lawson said of the judges' deliberations.

Event organizers say the competition is meant to encourage the community to pay tribute to and carry on the late civil rights leader's legacy. The firm Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP established the competition in Dallas in 1993 to highlight the cultural diversity of the community as well as to cultivate writing and speaking skills of elementary school students. The Dallas competition, now in its 25th year, is held in partnership with Dallas ISD on the same day.

The following students qualified as finalists in the competition:
-Thomas Johnson, Burrus Elementary
-Caitlin Thompson, Pleasantville Elementary
-Sebastian Garza, Cornelius Elementary
-Mariah Calvin, Bruce Elementary
-Alan Cabanas, Anderson Elementary
-Olutobi Adeyeri, Valley West Elementary

-Kamarah Pennamon, Blackshear Elementary
-Jazell Coleman, Thompson Elementary
-Leana MCGee, Lockhart Elementary
-Zyahra Barnes, Windsor Village
-Jernee Craig, Whidby Elementary
-Nhedrick Jabier, Crespo Elementary