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Come Nov. 18, an estimated 35 students in grades 4-12 will present their essays to a panel of judges, in hopes of winning more than just money.

“This teaches them how to interact with other people, how to project themselves when they’re in public,” said Eugenia Priest, the founder of Second Baptist Church of Rochester’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest. It’s a contest she began in 1988 after attending a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. service, and envisioned grade school students discussing Dr. King’s legacy and contributions.

“I look forward to it, and every time I say I’m going to stop, there’s always someone encouraging me, like a teacher, to continue. But sometimes you do get down because you think more people should be involved,” Priest told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview.

Each year around September and October, Beaver County schools, libraries and churches are notified about the contest. The contest is open to all Beaver County students, along with out-of-county students who attend a church within Beaver County. There are separate categories for Grades 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11, and 12. The winner of each category is awarded from $50 to $300. The contest averages 80-100 essays, but this year the number of entries was less.

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