KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Five local high school students took home cash prizes for their essays delivered during Eastman’s 9th Annual Black History Month Oratorical Contest.

This competition aims to create a greater understanding of Black and African American contributions to science, technology, engineering, math and arts, according to Eastman. It also serves as a means for area students to improve their writing, public speaking and communication skills.

The contest is open to high school students across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. This year, more than 75 local high schoolers submitted essays to the contest, according to Eastman.

First-place winner Sadie Cheshier is a sophomore at Dobyns-Bennett High School. She wrote and delivered her essay about Garrett Augustus Morgan, who is credited with the invention of the gas mask and modern traffic signals. Cheshier won a cash prize of $1,500.

“I’ve learned a ton from this experience from my research,” Cheshier told News Channel 11. “It’s just amazing to learn about all these African Americans that really influenced our lives and impacted our world and how society is today.”

Rishab Dey, Lily Gould, Ada Hylton and Reid Haas are four additional winners that had the opportunity to deliver their essays to judges during the competition. All five winners took home a cash prize, according to Eastman.