Summer Speeches

Matt Hawkins
August 10, 2015

High school orators and performers spent two summer weeks honing speeches with Bradley faculty and speech team members during the annual Summer Forensics Institute.

The fast-paced camp brought together 70 students and 30 coaches from 12 states to live the Bradley Experience and to build relationships with peers and college mentors.

“It’s such a liberating environment,” said Akshay Ravi, a high school student from Naperville, Illinois. “There are so many open-minded people here who will accept you for what you want to be.”

Students worked closely with Bradley coaches to construct speeches and polish delivery in public address, oral interpretation and limited preparation events. Additionally, daily guest lectures applied camp material to professional settings students will face. Campers also participated in several friendly competitions.

The collegial environment fostered trust and respect as campers revealed pieces of their lives through reflective presentations. At camp’s end, campers exuded new confidence in their abilities and better grasped the power of advocacy through speech.

“By hearing great speeches from the best speakers in the nation, we’re learning how to be better people beyond our speaking abilities,” said Sam Geiger, a high school student from Belleville, Illinois.

Refining students’ speaking skills, while simultaneously teaching lessons of character is how SFI prepares these high school students to be engaged civic citizens, according to Director of Forensics Ken Young.  “The pillars of our collegiate program: Tradition, Advocacy, and Excellence, are the same values that bond everyone at SFI together.”

Relationships were integral to SFI success. From students networking with others who shared common interests to future speech team members building friendships, the camp ensured teens left with personal connections to peers and mentors.

“SFI may be the first time some of the students find themselves surrounded by people with their particular interests,” Assistant Forensics Coach Tanya Melendez said. “It’s an instant bond. They can be creative and vulnerable, which is hard for many 16-year-olds. They can only do that if they have these kinds of relationships.”

Bradley’s forensics institute, in existence for 57 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 156 individual champions.