The Hostos Student Speech Competition, held Friday, December 11, was a moving event presented by the Creative Speakers Club with the Hostos Public Speaking students and the Hostos Lincoln Academy. Participants delivered original persuasive speeches concerning social justice, reform, and educational equity. The virtual event captured the bravery and passion of Hostos students. Three received the competition’s highest honors: Deborah Ojei won 1st place and will represent the College in the CUNY-wide competition during the spring semester. Rafia Rahman was runner up, and Noel Mullings took 3rd place.
Professor Rafael Mejía of the Humanities Department, who led the production of the speech competition, was overwhelmed with pride for students’ performances and the depth of content. “I am very proud of these brave students who accepted the challenge to represent their classes in this year’s Speech Competition,” he said. “Having the opportunity to work with my own students and my colleagues’ students has been a blast. Each of them brought something different and unique to the competition. I am really happy to work with a diverse population of students that represents who we are as a school community.”
He also thanked professors Angel Morales, Sol Miranda, and Melvin Huffnagle for helping him coach the students and for “helping the students achieve the confidence they need to stand up in public.”
Additionally, Professor Maria Subert made an important contribution during the post-event talk-back. “Students with accents, please don’t stop speaking,” she said. “Speaking is more important than any other additional thinking that could show your deeper thoughts. People that speak with accents or differently, we are just as strong as people with fluency in English. Don’t forget we can improve. Every day I focus on how important it is to speak out. It is personality and realizing what is important in life. Never stop speaking publicly. This is the way you improve and make a difference.”
Public speaking faculty members Melvin Huffnagle, Sol Miranda, Thelma Ithier-Sterling, Alisa Roost, Sandy Figueroa, and judges Mathew Moses, Jean-Marc Berne, Maria Subert, and Rafael Torres all had the same sentiment: “We are proud of you. Thank you so much for your work this term, under the difficult circumstances.” 
Professor Sol Miranda added, “I am so proud of all of the students. How well they spoke. They made it effortless…and to echo what Maria said, we all have accents and you can’t be afraid to speak up. I am really very touched. Especially during this pandemic.”
Professor Thelma Ithier-Sterling emphasized, “One thing I really enjoyed was the preparation. The students supported their ideas so well, so well-organized. I understood everything. I’m here 44 years and I still speak with an accent.”
Hostos Lincoln Academy Liaison Rocio Rayo and Legal Assistant Rafael Torres, echoed the cheers, and over 50 Hostos staff, faculty members, and students attended the competition, filling the Zoom chat with congratulatory emojis and inspired words.
“To me everyone is a winner, beginning with this wonderful community,” said President Daisy Cocco De Filippis. “It takes a village, many multiple little villages at Hostos to support and encourage our magnificent students. The generosity and the support you give them is amazing.”
“It is said that most people fear public speaking. Overcoming this fear is a big accomplishment in life. So, I laud you all for doing this video and with that said, I offer you my sincere congratulations and gracias for making Hostos proud,” remarked Provost Charles Drago.
The Speech Competition was undoubtedly a hit and timely event that affirmed the importance of human communication. To wrap, Professor Rafael Mejía congratulated all of the student and faculty participants, adding: “I am going to keep doing this type of events for our students and our college community. These are the moments that make us feel stronger and keep us together as a family. I want to encourage my students to believe in themselves and keep improving their skills as speakers and entertainers.”