Summer speeches

Students warm up for a day of the Summer Forensics Institute. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

By Matt Hawkins
July 22, 2014

Bradley’s storied speech team welcomed 100 high school students for the annual Summer Forensics Institute, which runs July 13-26. Though the two-week camp focuses on rhetorical skills, it teaches students valuable lessons about teamwork and leadership.

Students work closely with Bradley coaches to construct speeches and polish delivery in public address, oral interpretation and limited preparation events. Additionally, daily guest lectures apply camp material to professional settings students will face.

“They teach how forensics can better us,” said Kyle Powers, a senior from Moorehead, Ky. “Bradley coaches show us how to spread messages and use our voices as opposed to being obsessed with first place. They want excellence, but that comes from us doing our best. Once we do that, the trophies will follow.”

Sarah Brashear ’18, recipient of the 2013 Janssen Oratorical Contest scholarship, attended the institute for the second time. As a senior captain of her Omaha, Neb., speech team last year, she put into practice the institute’s wisdom on teamwork.

“I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would. Not only am I a better performer, but I’m a better person,” she said. “It’s one thing to do speeches for yourself, but it’s another to help each other. By doing that, we became stronger as a whole.”

Campers, who hailed from 17 states, are forging new friendships and rekindling old relationships through the time in close quarters. Many participants had previously attended SFI or December’s George Armstrong Heart of Illinois Invitational and Janssen Oratorical Contest.

“I came here looking for a piece, but I am leaving with a family,” Powers said. “It’s a camp where you get skills, but they make it a home.”

The family atmosphere and collaborative competitive environment is what drew Brashear 400 miles from home.

“The minute I set foot on campus I felt like I had a family, and it was even stronger in the speech program,” she said. “Every time I talked to the team, they were so excited.”

Despite the intense schedule, the camp refreshes 26 staff who serve as coaches.

“It’s amazing how it revitalizes us as we see these students’ passion for refining their craft,” forensics director Ken Young ’05 said. “It inspires the coaches to get ready for the upcoming year of competition.”

Bradley’s forensics institute, in existence nearly 50 years, is the longest-running camp of its kind in the U.S. The University’s speech team is one of the most-decorated college squads as well, with 41 team championships and 154 individual champions. The team swept the AFA and National Forensics Association championships in 2013.