THS Students Place in Eastman Oratory Contest

THS Students Place in Eastman Oratory Contest
Posted on 02/02/2024
Congratulations to Harper Robinette and Lana Lavinder on placing first and second in the Black History Month Eastman Oratory Contest. Additionally, Ricardo Cortez Aleman, Hunter Finch, Arabella Taylor, and Abigail Waldorf earned honorable mentions.

Harper Robinette's first place speech stemmed from her essay on Vivien Thomas, the African-American medical genius who created a procedure to save the lives of infants with blue baby syndrome. Harper's first place win earned her $1,500! Lana Lavinder placed 2nd with her essay on Balanda Atis, whose expertise in chemistry while working at L’Oréal led her to discover the pigment ultramarine blue, which dramatically improved makeup for women of color. She won $1,000! We are so proud of the work of these students and their teacher Mariel Story! 

Read more on this story below from the Kingsport Times News press release.

Eastman Oratory Winners Harper Robinette & Lana Lavinder 1st and 2nd place winners

KINGSPORT — Eastman hosted its 10th annual Black History Oratorical Contest, which requires high school students to submit essays about Black and African American STEM pioneers, with the winner receiving a $1,500 cash prize.

Hundreds of students from across the region participated in the contest. Volunteers then chose a top five who are invited to read their essays to a panel of judges and a live audience Thursday. The annual contest is sponsored by Eastman and Eastman’s Connect Employee Resource Group.

Andrew Yacinthe, co-chair of Connect, said the contest has a lot of benefits.

“First and foremost, we get to learn about a lot of the contributions that Black and African American people have made to the STEM fields and a lot of times those contributions have gone unrecognized,” Yacinthe said. “It also educates our employees. So we have a number of employees who volunteer their time to read through all the essays that we received, grade them and rank them so we can pick out our top five finalists. A common comment that I receive from these volunteers is that you know what I learned, something new, and that is one of the best things that I can think of here. Something that when the student can teach us that is incredible.”

The five finalists were all juniors, with Isaiha Stuart, Aya Bowen and Matthew Carpenter from West Ridge High School and Harper Robinette and Lana Lavinder from Tennessee High School.

Bowen wrote about Ronald McNair, an astronaut on the crew of the Challenger. He was the second African American to go to space. Carpenter wrote about Marian Croak, who created Voice Over Internet Protocol, which allows video call services like Zoom to function.

Lavinder wrote about Balanda Atis, a scientist who worked to develop a foundation that better matched the skin tones of African Americans. Robinette wrote about Vivian Thomas, who helped pioneer heart surgery to fix blue babies, a condition affecting newborns caused by a faulty heart valve.

Finally, Stuart wrote about Richard Spikes, an inventor whose work led to the development of the first automatic transmission.

Each finalist won a cash prize, with the first-place winner receiving a $1,500 cash prize; second place, $1,000; third place, $750; fourth place, $500; and fifth place, $250. The academic sponsor of the first-place student will receive a $100 gift card for their classroom.

The first-place winner was Robinette; second place was Lavinder; third place was Carpenter; fourth place was Bowen; and Stuart won fifth place.

Robinette said it felt exciting to win the contest. She decided to write about Thomas because she is interested in pursuing a pediatric career in the medical field.

She said contests like this help students develop important life skills.

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