• ST. LOUIS, MO, May 14, 2012 – Carvon Smith looked like a professional attorney stating his case as he stood before the judges at this year’s National Bar Association Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Oral Advocacy Competition held in the mock courtroom at the law firm of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard.  The 17-year-old Sumner High School senior delivered his speech with passion and confidence, impressing the judges and earning first place in this year’s competition. 


    As the first place winner, Smith will now represent St. Louis in the Region VIII event to be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 2, 2012.  There he will compete with students from Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota for the honor of moving on to the National Competition scheduled for July 17, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the National Bar Association’s annual convention. Students placing in the Regional and National competitions share in $25,000 in scholarship awards.


    Sponsored by the National Bar Association and supported by the National Bar Institute, the competition is an annual advocacy program–and one of the signature programs of the NBA–designed to motivate students of color to excel in education. The contest encourages high school juniors and seniors to express their views on a pre-selected topic, judges the students on their ability to communicate orally and in writing, while allowing them to sharpen their skills in public speaking. 


    The St. Louis competition is sponsored by the Mound City Bar Association and Sandberg Phoenix.  St. Louis area students were invited to submit an essay addressing the following issue:  Consider how the Occupy Movement, an international protest movement primarily directed against social and economic inequality, compares with the Civil Rights Movement and the activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  How would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. address either: 1) the tenants of the tent cities, or 2) the opponents of the Occupy Movement?


    Five finalists were selected from all written essay entries and advanced to the Oral Advocacy Competition.  Joining Smith as a finalist were: Fatima Amtashar (Gateway IT High School), Chelsea Dibello (Gateway IT High School), Donny Duffey (Mehlville High School) and Melvin Ellis (Carnahan High School of the Future).  Ellis earned second place in the Oral Advocacy Competition and will join Smith at the Regional event.


    Mavis T. Thompson, past president of the NBA, serves as the Chairperson for the St. Louis event.  This year’s judges for the Oral Advocacy Competition were the Honorable Donald McCullin (Retired, 22nd Judicial Circuit), James Neely (Director of the U. S. EEOC Regional Office) and Micah D. Hall (President of the Mound City Bar Association).


    The Oral Advocacy Competition was videotaped and will air on SLPS-TV (cable channel 988) and is also available for viewing on the St. Louis Public School District website at www.slps.orgby clicking on the SLPS-TV link.