GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - This celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t with parades, dancing or music.
It was the simple act of talking.
That may be easy for teenagers, but not necessarily in front of a lot of people.
“This is pretty scary to go out there and speak in front of a bunch of adults, and especially the turnaround time to remember a whole speech, write a whole speech and to come speak to a large crowd,” said Ceana Palacio, a Gulfport High School senior, who won the top prize of $2,500. “I mean, there’s 133 chairs in here.”
They did it in hopes of landing a scholarship at the first Student Oratorical Contest put on by the Gulfport branch of the NAACP.
“This is my first time writing a long speech and memorizing the speech, and this is my first time in a room this big full of people,” said Gulfport High School student Siriss McLaurin.
This process was for more than just money.
“It seems so simple on the surface,” McLaurin added. “But once you break it down to what you actually believe in and agree with, it kind of opens up and broadens you as a person as to actually who you are.”
Sponsors included the City of Gulfport and The 2 Mary’s Foundation, providing the $7,000 in scholarship money.
“The City Council is very proud to join in with the NAACP in this effort and really bring this to the level of prominence that it should be,” said Ward 6 Councilman R. Lee Flowers.
“What better way to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy than to do scholarships and competition," added Ward 1 Councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey.
The essay subject was on the importance of simply being involved for everyone’s sake.
“I would hope that they foster further their commitment to community responsibility through their engagement and their involvement in our community and elsewhere,” said organizer Virginia Adolph.
Linda Nichols with the 2 Mary’s Foundation added that sponsoring the event was a natural fit.
“This is an opportunity to come before people and show them what your skill is, what your talent is,” she said. “And it also builds confidence when you continue to do these types of events for kids.”
Palacio said lesson learned.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in Gulfport, Miss., or if you are in New York, N.Y., it’s just about your engagement and how you’re able to reach one another through your message and your stories.”