Dallas ISD Fifth Grade Student Wins MLK Oratory Competition

Dominic Patermo from Dallas ISD's Harry C. Withers Elementary took home 1st place and $2,000 for winning the 29th annual Foley & Lardner MLK Jr. Oratory Competition

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Fourth-grade and fifth-grade students in Dallas ISD stepped up to the microphone at the auditorium inside W.H. Adamson High School on Friday and echoed the words of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Dr. King was a great man," fifth-grader Gregory Anderson said.

This year, students were asked to answer the question: How do you think Dr. King's teachings can help us today?

"Dr. King's teachings are rooted in love for one another," fifth-grader Ni'Kyah Levelston said.

"When the world does not have an example of love, we must be the example," fourth-grader Zoe Frazier said. "When I look at the world, I feel as if we've been pulled apart."

"I see people hurt people from protesting," fourth-grader Jamari Williams said.

"We saw it, we heard it, and we felt it," fifth-grader Dinastee McKinney said.

"Judging people by their skin color is called racism," Anderson pointed out.

"This is not acceptable. We'll rise to the challenge," Levelston said.

The students said they were influenced by Black Lives Matter protests.

"I will remember the name of George Floyd," fifth-grader Jessie Washington said.

"We won't stop marching, won't stop seeking," fourth-grader Cortlin Harbert said. "For those who lost their lives simply by being black while breathing."

"Whether you're a blue state or a red state, a person of color or not, we are all humans," fifth-grader Dominic Patermo said. "This is the type of maturity we need to see."

Patermo won the competition a year after he placed second.

"We must be united," Patermo pleaded. "Be real. Be you!"

An anonymous donor stepped up at the last minute to double the purse for the eight students.

The winner Dominic Patermo, a fifth-grader from Harry C. Withers Elementary took home $2,000. Second place was Zoe Frazier, a fourth-grader from J.P. Starks Math, Science, and Technology Vanguard. She won $1,000.

Dinastee McKinney, a fifth-grader from Clara Oliver Elementary got third place and $400.

Finalists Jamari Williams of Wilmer-Hutchins Elementary, Ni'Kyah Levelston of Ronald E. McNair Elementary, Jessie Washington of Charles Rice Elementary, Gregory Anderson of Urban Park Elementary and Cortlin Harbert of Thomas L. Marsalis Elementary each took home $200.

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