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Three high schoolers win first place in fourth annual Langston Hughes Youth Oratorical Contest in Havre de Grace

Three high school students took home first-place honors — a first-time occurrence in the contest — in the recent Langston Hughes Youth Oratorical Contest.

The fourth annual event supports the Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center, and celebrates the legacy of the famed poet, Langston Hughes, and his connection to Havre de Grace. It also give local middle and high school students an opportunity to showcase their talents.

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This year’s contest, which happened Feb. 6, was held virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A video of the event, presented by the nonprofit Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center Inc., is available on YouTube. The contest typically happens in February during Black History Month.

The theme of this year’s contest was based on Hughes’ poem, “Harlem,” which opens with the line, “what happens to a dream deferred?” according to a news release provided by Patricia Cole, president of the board of directors for the Havre de Grae Colored School Museum and Cultural Center.

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Featured poet Ben Samuel, a fifth-grader at Buckland Mills Elementary in Northern Virginia, read Hughes’ poem during the contest, which also featured a performance from the Morgan State University choir.

The three first-place contest winners were Ellianna Andreen, a sophomore at Havre de Grace High School, Keliss Levoné-Myers, a ninth grader at Edgewood High School and Nia Marie Webb, an EHS junior. Edgewood senior Desmond McAllister took second place in the high school category.

In the middle school category, Johannah Stevens, a eighth-grader at Rosedale Baptist School in Baltimore County, took first place. Second and third-place winners were Kayla Reynolds, a seventh-grader at Magnolia Middle School, and Lillian Moss, who is in the sixth grade at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore City.

The runners up in the high school category were Edgewood High sophomore Angel Addison, Bel Air High School freshman Meghan Davis and Chloe Gauthier, a Havre de Grace High School freshman. Middle school runners up included Deetya Chhatwal, a sixth-grader at Patterson Mill Middle School, Cameron Grant, a Havre de Grace Middle School eighth-grader, and Jocelyn Jacobs who is in seventh grade at The Tome School in Cecil County.

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The first-place winners each received $500 scholarships, and second-place winners each received $300, with runners up winning $100 each, according to the event program. The scholarships were funded by an anonymous donor and presented in honor of the late Tevis “Ted” Hoke, who died Jan. 20, and Wardell Stansbury, who died June 22, 2020.

Both men were graduates of the former Havre de Grace Colored High School — Hoke graduated in 1940, and Stansbury graduated in 1953. Havre de Grace Colored School opened in 1912 as a segregated school that served African American students and originally served elementary and middle school children. A high school, called Havre de Grace Colored High School, was established in 1930.

The school was open at Stokes and Alliance Streets in the city until 1953, when it was combined with other schools in the area to create Havre de Grace Consolidated School, serving Black children in first through 12th grade, in the Oakington area between Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

Hughes, a prolific writer and activist who first came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, was connected to Havre de Grace Colored School through the first high school principal, Leon S. Roye, who was a college classmate and fraternity brother. Hughes often visited the school and worked with students.

The nonprofit entity, which has owned the former school building since 2019, is working to establish a museum and cultural center in the facility.

Rachel Gauthier, vice president of the Harford County Board of Education and mother of runner-up Chloe Gauthier, praised the contest participants during the Feb. 8 school board meeting. Harford County Public Schools students have been taking their classes virtually through the majority of the current school year, although they are slated to go back on a hybrid basis in March.

“You soothe my heart,” Rachel Gauthier said. “You make it so obvious that, not only have you gotten an amazing education this year and in previous years past, but that you’ve really taken your time and thought through what ‘a dream deferred’ means to you.”

She noted that, for the students, “it is so important that you were heard — thank you for sharing your gifts with all of us.”

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