A Martinsville High School student earned first place Wednesday in an oratorical contest held by Eastman Performance Films.
Vex Miller, a ninth-grade student at Martinsville High School (MHS), earned first place with her speech on Arthur Ashe, a professional tennis player who won three grand slam singles titles.
Miller competed in the Southside Speaks Black History Oratorical Contest against four finalists from Carlisle School, Bassett High School, Magna Vista High School, and Patrick County High School. This marked her second year in a row winning the contest.
The focus of the contest, held virtually, was to highlight African Americans from the Commonwealth of Virginia who have made significant contributions to history and to provide high schoolers with the opportunity to share their writing, public speaking, and leadership skills.
“Each year, Eastman offers all local high school students a fantastic opportunity to develop their speaking and writing skills while learning about influential African Americans from Virginia,” said English teacher Ryan Brent. “Vex was chosen to represent Martinsville High School this year and I am very proud of all the hard work she put in to earn first place in this competition! I am excited to see what great work is to come from her, as she is winning this as a freshman. I also look forward to being involved with this competition in the future, as this is a wonderful way for all our students to gain real world experience, be involved in our community, and celebrate Black History Month.”
Anika Banerjee, a senior at Carlisle School, spoke about civil rights activist Barbara Johns.
Alexander Doyle, a junior at Patrick County High School, spoke about mathematician Gladys West, who helped mathematically model the shape of the earth and the satellite geodesy models used in the global positioning system.
Bailey Stanley, a freshman at Bassett High School, spoke about Mildred and Richard Loving, a married couple who were the plaintiffs in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia in 1967.
Emily Williams, a senior at Magna Vista High School, spoke about Oliver Hill, Sr., a civil rights attorney whose racial work ended the separate but equal doctrine.
“I am very proud of the hard work of our students and the dedication of our teaching staff,” said city Schools Superintendent Dr. Zeb Talley. “This is the second consecutive year that MCPS students won this award. Writing and speaking skills are essential for student growth and academic excellence. These are lifelong learner traits and tools.”
“We’re extremely proud of Ms. Miller’s first-place win,” said MHS Principal Aji Dixon. “She is an extremely articulate and talented young lady with a great deal of potential, and we certainly appreciate Eastman for providing this opportunity to students in our community.”