Speaking Out About Diversity And Inclusion


The students who participated in the Oratorical Contest during the Week of Inauguration. @ Presbyterian College

Sharecka Byrd, Business Manager

Amongst the chaos of the week leading up to President Matthew vanderBerg’s inauguration, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion showcased the talent of students who value diversity and inclusion on campus.  

On October 19, 2021, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, along with the Diversity Inclusion Advisory Council, invited members of the PC community to join them in reflecting on the theme “What Does Diversity & Inclusion Mean To You?” 

The event was hosted by Rev. Racquel Gill, of the Office of Religious Life and Multicultural Community Engagement, in Neville Hall’s Khune Auditorium. Many people attended the event in support of the strides PC has made over the last few years to create a more diverse and inclusive community on campus. 

The contestants included Ndayishimiye Florence, Rod Haygood, Ciera Carter, Gabriella Evans, Brian Foster, Barrett Moody, Bryton Goering, and Mia Prieto. Each speaker opened their hearts and minds to the audience and gave a person of color’s perspective on the importance of diversity and inclusion. 

Florence received first place for her argument that persuasively conveyed her insight on, and commitment to, the value of diversity and inclusion at Presbyterian College. Florence told her heart-warming story of coming to America, the harsh realities of being a first-generation African, and the intense culture shock she had little time to adjust to. 

Although there was a little hiccup during her speech, she quickly picked back up where she had left off, and later said that she wished the contest would have given contestants more time to practice their speech beforehand. 

Despite the mishap, the crowd cheered as everyone celebrated her win. Although Florence was in shock, she was grateful for the award and for the kind words she received from the audience during and after the contest. The Oratorical Contest was her first time speaking publicly at PC about her experience, and even though it wasn’t easy for Florence to do, she appreciated the relief she felt afterwards. 

“I am surprised that I won because I did mess up, but it was fun doing this,” Florence said. “[I] normally do not talk about [my] experience, but it felt great to let it off [my] chest.” 

Other winners included Brian Foster, third place, and Rod Haygood, second place. Each contestant was able to articulate their experience well, and from the audience an array of tears, laughter, curiosity, and interest was displayed for each speaker that stood confidently and proudly of their diversity. The Oratorical Contest was only the beginning to see the reach of diversity and inclusion for students, faculty, staff and the community of PC now that we have officially inaugurated our nineteenth president.