Gabriel Marandino, a 7th grader at Explore Middle School, took first place in the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Contest, a citywide event that allows students to take turns performing portions of some of King’s greatest speeches in front of family, friends, educators and a panel of judges. On Friday, February 21st, Gabe took first place by reciting eight minutes of “Where Do We Go From Here?”
This was not Gabriel’s first time performing one of the beloved orator’s famous speeches. Gabe has been competing in the “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Contest” at city hall since he was in the 4th grade. In 2017, as a 4th grader, Gabe received an Honorable Mention. In 2018, he placed 3rd. In 2019, Gabriel’s performance was awarded 2nd place. And, he rose to 1st place on Friday.
Gabe’s mother, Angela Wieczorkowski, is exceptionally proud of her son. “I am so incredibly proud of Gabriel and his accomplishment! Each year, Gabriel shows such courage, talent, passion, determination and hard work in this competition. He challenges himself each year by learning a new speech and always striving to understand and feel the words he recites. He practices daily any chance he has. He participates in this annually not just because it’s a contest but because it means so much to him to say these words. He feels a sense of honor in doing this,” she shared.
Wieczorkowski and her family double to celebrate this year as Gabe’s younger brother also competed in the contest and received Honorable Mention. “Each year, Gabe has grown in his talent and seeing his smile when he was acknowledged for all his hard work by winning 1st place was such a great moment for our family! He inspires his brother who also competed and his sister who would like to compete next year. We are all so proud and happy for him. He has a talent and courage that I believe will benefit him throughout life.”
Last year, Principal Krone knew Gabe’s performance would be an essential part of the Explore Black History Month Celebration. Gabe blew the audience away that day. She and Supervisor Jamie Velazquez can’t wait for everyone to see his performance once again during the annual Black History Celebration on Friday, February 28th.
Krone explains, “It is incredibly important for us to not only celebrate our students' successes but also showcase their talents. Last year when Gabe recited “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” it was so moving it brought everyone, students, staff and guests, to their feet for a standing ovation. Months ago I asked Gabe which speech he was performing this year and he told me he chose “Where Do We Go From Here? We thought it was such an appropriate theme for our upcoming 2020 Explore Black History Month Celebration.
“The speech means a lot to me. A lot of preparation and hard work goes into preparing for the competition. When I give my speech I make sure to include a lot of emotion. I spend a lot of time thinking about the words and what they mean. I think I was able to achieve first place this year because I not only spoke with my voice but with my heart,” Gabriel proudly explained.