Hostos Community College’s 2nd Annual Public Speaking Competition

Public Speaking at Hostos Community College is a rite of passage for many students. It is one of the core classes that must be taken in order to obtain the A.A. or A.S. degree – and it is a requirement for many of the specialized programs Hostos is famous for. Some students come in confident thinking this will be an easy A because the gift of the gab is something that comes naturally to them – before they realize the tremendous amount of work researching, outlining, preparing and presenting is. Some students wait until the very last semester because their stomach do gymnastics at the thought of speaking in front of a crowd. Which ever group students fall into the Public Speaking class at Hostos is a transformative experience. Deborah Ojei, first place winner of the 2020 public speaking contest said, “working on my speech took a lot of work and dedication. I had to do quite a lot of takes before I felt like I had a good video to present for the competition. When I saw the other contestants video, I thought they were great, so I was really nervous.”

At this 2nd annual competition, a thought child of Professor Rafael Mejia, students from different sections of Fundamentals of Public Speaking represented their class by submitting a Persuasive Speech Video for judges’ consideration. The judges evaluated all of the submissions and the six “best” finalists were selected to compete at the Hostos 2nd Annual Speech Competition via Zoom on Friday, December 11, 2020. The top three winners this year were all part of our Office of School College Partnership Collaborative ( an office that represents high school students in both the Early College and College Now programs). The three top placing students will be honored at the Hostos Honor’s Convocation in May 2021. The first place winner will go on to represent the college at the CUNY WIDE Speech competition in the spring.

The first place winner, Deborah Ojei, is a sophomore at Hostos Lincoln Academy of Science and an Early College student. The second place winner, Rafia Rahman, is a senior at Bronx International High School and a College Now student. The third place winner, Noel Mullings, is a sophomore at H.E.R.O. High school and an Early College student.

Travaras Geter, Associate Director of College Now at Hostos Community College told us “Rafia’s participation and final placement in the public speaking competition exemplifies who we are in Hostos College Now; ‘preparing students for the realities of higher education and beyond.’  Rafia Rahman is smart, confident and better prepared for success.” Rafia further illustrates this with her own words, “It felt like a college experience even before going to college. Thank you for this opportunity!”

Noel Mullings sums it up eloquently by reminding us that even when something is “frightening or just plain hard…I want to remind you that you can be great.

Below are short BIOS from each student – along with a special message from their academic community. At the bottom you will find find each of their winning speeches – check them out!

Deborah Ojei, 10th Grade, Hostos Lincoln Academy of Science and Early College Initiative. I was born in Nigeria and I came to the US when I was 8 years old. After the competition, since it was my dad’s birthday, I ate some cake and played some music on the TV as a celebration. A message from Ms. AJ, the 10th grade counselor at Hostos Lincoln Academy, “Deborah Ojei is a brilliant and driven student. She came to this country with the dream of achieving academic success and making her family proud, to date Ms. Ojei has exceeded those goals.”

Rafia Rahman, 12th grade, Bronx International High School and College Now. Public Speaking is all about practice. The more you practice, the better your speech will be. I’m currently reading Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. “The entire Bronx International High School Community is proud to support and celebrate the accomplishments of Rafia Rahman, Class of 2021.  She is an incredible example of determination and hard work and is an outstanding leader, representing our community.”

Noel Mullings, 10th Grade, H.E.R.O. High and Early College Initiative I’m from The Bronx and I’m 15 years old. I want to study psychology and I’m really into philosophy. I like to play basketball, read and write poetry. Elizabeth Wilson, Director of the OSCP, on behalf of the HERO Early College Team wanted to share that “the team is so grateful that Noel had the chance to share his work at the speech competition– and it’s incredible that early college students swept the leadership board! In events like these, our students feel their connection to the wider Hostos community. We’re thankful to Professor Mejia for nominating Noel for this opportunity.”

Below are the video submissions of their winning speeches.

First Place: Deborah Ojei – “Grades should not matter as much as they do”

Second Place: Rafia Rahman – “Gender inequality”

Third Place: Noel Mullings – “College should be cheaper”


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