The Butler Giving Circle (BGC) recently awarded its third annual grant to the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement to support the creation of a youth oratorical contest in partnership with Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). The proposal was selected from among four finalists to receive the $9,500 grant at the BGC annual meeting on June 3. The grant will fully fund the first year of the contest, which is expected to become an annual event.

“While all proposals the Butler Giving Circle shareholders reviewed this year were worthy of funding, the MLK Oratorical Contest stood out for several reasons—not the least of which is the program’s unique opportunity to elevate and amplify the voices of young people within Indiana’s largest public school district through a meaningful partnership with Butler University,” said Chris Beaman ʼ12, member of the Butler Giving Circle’s Executive Committee.

The MLK Oratorical Contest will provide an opportunity for IPS students in grades 7-12 to compete in school-based oratorical contests centered around a theme aligned with Butler’s Visiting Black Intellectual Series and the Community Read project of the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement. Elementary-aged students will be invited to participate through an essay contest based on a similar theme. Winners of the school-based contests will be invited to compete at a culminating contest on Butler’s campus during Black History Month in February. The contest will engage current Butler students as coaches for the finalist participants, providing opportunities for meaningful one-on-one relationships to develop between Butler and IPS students.

“This oratorical contest will allow for us to cultivate and hear the voices of young people in our community who have a lot to say on how we can address the most critical social justice issues of our time,” said Terri Jett, who serves as Faculty Director of the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement. “When I first heard of the Butler Giving Circle Award I was moved that our alumni would create something that is so directly related to our founding abolitionist values. I am honored to receive this prestigious award and very thankful for the dedication of our alumni to be fully invested in sustaining our community engagement work. Participants in the Hub/IPS MLK Oratorical Contest will know that we value them and we are listening.”

Thanks to BGC grant funding, IPS students at participating schools will be provided with books and other supporting materials as background information on the contest theme, which will help to inspire and inform the students’ speeches. The program is aimed at advancing literacy among IPS students while promoting the shared IPS and Butler values of racial equity and access to educational opportunities for all.                                   

Jett hopes the program will also have the added benefit of providing IPS students with an opportunity to connect with Butler and envision themselves as future Bulldogs.

The Butler Giving Circle was established in 2019 and is designed to connect alumni to their philanthropic areas of passion, focused on two mission-critical elements of the University’s vision for the future: community partnerships and student access and success.

With an annual gift of $500, Butler alumni can become shareholders in the Butler Giving Circle. After shareholder funds are pooled, 40 percent of the funds are directed to the Butler Fund for Student Scholarship, 40 percent are granted to an Indianapolis community partner(s) with an existing affiliation to Butler, and 20 percent are used to fund experiential learning opportunities for Butler students with Project 44, the Giving Circle’s priority partner.

Each of this year’s three remaining BGC grant finalists was awarded $3,437 from the BGC’s annual pool of funds as seed money toward their proposals:

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Sociology Department) with Marquette Manor: Are Zoom meetings as effective as in-person meetings in decreasing loneliness in older adults?
  • Butler Community Arts School with Ganggang Culture & Indianapolis Shakespeare Company: BCAS Camp Scholarship Fund
  • Butler University Philosophy and Critical Thinking (BUPACT) Program with Herron High School: A Summer Camp for High School Students

New shareholders can join the Butler Giving Circle at any time by making a gift at