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Miami Dade College’s Partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools Spawns 32nd Anniversary of Theodore Gibson Oratorical Competition

Theodore Gibson

First place winners in the 32nd Annual Theodore Gibson Oratorical Competition are (first row): T'Andre Bellinger, Daniel Asiamah, Kayla Burgess, and Reynel Reynaldo. In the second row, MDC administrators Malou C. Harrison, North Campus President Dr. Jose A. Vicente, and Dr. Sherrilyn Scott.

Miami, June 8, 2009 - The Theodore Gibson Oratorical Project, a joint venture between Miami Dade College (MDC) and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, recently hosted its 2009 Final Competition at the North Campus William and Joan Lehman Theatre. Forty-three Miami-Dade County public school students participated in the 32nd annual event aimed at exposing school children to writings about the black experience throughout the Diaspora.

The project also seeks to provide an opportunity for school children to discover and refine public speaking skills through a comprehensive and challenging level of learning and competition. Twelve outstanding students representing schools from Homestead to the north Miami-Dade county line, including elementary, middle and high school emerged as winners.

In total, more than 350 students participated in this year’s preliminary interschool and regional competitions.  As part of the competition, elementary and middle school participants were required to recite a published poem; high school students were required to pen an original piece to recite. Several of this year’s recitations included, Knoxville TennesseeHarlem is the Capital of my World; Let America be America; Good ‘Ol Days; and a student authored piece entitled, Unknown. Each participant was presented with a certificate of participation, and the 12 winners received medallions and engraved trophies.

The Theodore Gibson Oratorical has uncovered incredible talent in our school children, the caliber of which is next to none,” says Dr. José A. Vicente, MDC North Campus president. “Our college and the school district have together created an excellent learning ground for honing communication skills, self-esteem and confidence.”

Officiating at the competition, was a distinguished cadre of judges that included Rick Beasley, executive director of the South Florida Workforce; Robert Beatty, Esq., South Florida Times publisher; Bill Diggs, president of the Miami Dade Chamber of Commerce; Charles Gibson, Esq., attorney at law; Rosie Gordon-Wallace, president and CEO, Diaspora Vibe Gallery; and Debra Toomer, director of marketing, WMBM Radio.

“Our students demonstrated excellent communication skills and great confidence,” says Millie Fornell, the school district’s associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “Providing students with the opportunity to participate in this oratorical competition is a valuable life learning experience.”

The first Theodore Gibson Oratorical Project was held on December 14, 1977 and the participants were students from Booker T. Washington Junior High School. Today, more than 30 years later, the project has blossomed into a popular spring time contest among local students who compete in intra-school and regional competitions throughout the county.

Winners of the 32nd annualTheodore Gibson Oratorical Project:

Group I (K-2)

Student                                  Selection                                               Place                      School

Daniel Asiamah                 I Won’t Stop                                         1st                        Linda Lentin K-8 Center

Folukemi Olufidipe           Madam and her Madam                    2nd                        Dr. R. Espinosa Elementary

Chaquoia Spear                  Yes We Can                                       3rd                         Melrose Elementary

Group II (3-5)

Student                                  Selection                                               Place                      School

Reynel Reynaldo               Obama Election Night Speech        1st                        Campbell Drive Elementary

Talija Harris                        What If I Am A Black Woman            2nd                      Edison Park Elementary

Khandis Merritt                   Good ‘Ol Days                                      3rd                        Ada Merrit K-8 Center



Group III (6-8)

Student                                    Selection                                              Place                      School

T’Andre Bellinger              Sometimes I Cry                                 1st                         Brownville Middle

Zenobia Frazier                 State of the Union                                2nd                      Howard Doolin Middle

Cencaria Gainous            Black Is                                                   3rd                      Charles Drew Middle


Group IV (9-12)

Student                                     Selection                                              Place                     School

Kayla Burgess                    Unknown                                              1st                          Miami Coral Reef Sr. High

Christi Owiye                      No Love                                                 2nd                       Thomas Jefferson Middle

Dominique Steward          Awareness                                          3rd                           DASH


For more information about the Theodore Gibson Oratorical Project, please visit


Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359,, media specialist
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710,, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482,

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