Confident Orators

By Matt Hawkins
December 10, 2013

The Hilltop bustled December 6-7 with activity from 300 high school students during the annual George Armstrong Heart of Illinois Invitational and Janssen Oratorical Contest. Students gave 2,000 speeches in 30 events and three walked away with a total $40,000 in scholarships through the Janssen competition.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Bradley forensics director Ken Young said. “When high schoolers come to campus, it reminds me of the first time I came to Bradley being a little star-struck. The enthusiasm makes it all worth it.”

Bradley alumni and prospective students were among the guests, as teams traveled from as far as California to participate.

“I had a wonderful experience here from the speech team to the Bradley family,” said Pricilla Merritt ’12, assistant coach for Fullerton (Calif.) Union High School. “It’s a great community here. To come back here bringing my kids is wonderful. They see the town and they’re so excited to compete and show the Midwest what we have to offer.”

Merritt and Fullerton’s head coach, Sal Tinajero ’95, use the Midwest tournament to showcase their alma mater and to push their students toward higher education.

“We encourage all students to go to college and that’s why we want them to come to Bradley,” Merritt said. “We have students who don’t understand the value of education so we teach them that education matters. It’s amazing to watch them as the years go on.”

The tournament also reunited many who met at the annual Summer Forensics Institute. Bradley’s speech team hosts the two-week camp each July for high school students.

“It’s amazing because I got to learn so much,” said prospective student Yasmin Younis of St. Louis. “And, it’s nice seeing people come back because friendships we made at camp.”

Janssen scholarship competitor Jessica DeMunbrun of St. Louis eyed both the potential financial help and the chance to polish her oratory skills.

“It signifies all the hard work I put into it,” she said. “I’m excited to finally show off what I’m doing and at the same time see what other people are doing.”

Bradley’s speech team rolls out the university’s red carpet to create the positive learning environment with an eye on attracting future Braves.

“We work hard not only to be a point of national distinction for the university but to take responsibility for the mission of the university to further diversity,” Young said. “We take pride in bringing students across the country to share the experiences of students here.” 

The top-prize $15,000 scholarship was awarded to Sarah Brashear of Marian High School (Omaha, Neb.). Kevin Hill of Neuqua Valley (Naperville) received the second-place $13,000 scholarship and Meghan Weston of Fullerton, Calif., received the third-place $12,000 award.

Downers Grove North won the team competition, with Munster (Ind.) second, Normal University High third, Parkway West (Ballwin, Mo.) fourth and Fullerton (Calif.) fifth.