By Cara Stucker
If public speaking makes you anxious, yet you think like lightening and are undoubtedly competitive, joining the forensics team might be an idea worth contemplating.
Out of about 30 students on City College’s speech and debate team half are brand new members, while the rest are yearly-returning students who have found forensics to strengthen the shape of their life. At the start of the spring semester, 15 students will be returning to the team to comprise some 40 members.
“We have a tremendously talented squad this year,” said coach Nathaniel Steele as he merits his present members.
Joining the forensics team is not only easy with a simple enrollment in Speech 37 or Speech 38 but the team is beyond welcoming. They encourage new members each year, and only grow in success with the help of these new students, Steele said.
The speech and debate team has been around since 1976. In the past five years speech instructor Steele has served as one of the co-coaches and Robert Hawkins has assisted Steele for the past two years.
Steele said he got involved with forensics when he was just in middle school. He said his passion for it carried over through high school where participated tournaments and other public speaking competitions.
Steele said he loves being a coach for the forensics team because he enjoys watching them succeed and evolve as students and debaters.
Both coaches work with every student in individual sessions, giving feedback from two perspectives to perfect their presentations. Steele focuses on management and the debate events itself.
“I focus on tournaments and competition, preparing students for advance public speaking and working with them to craft their presentation,” Hawkins said.
Although the speech and debate team is an elective course, the lessons students acquire go beyond the simplicity of other curriculum also considered optional, according to Steele. He said the students on the forensics team are a dedicated bunch, spending anywhere from 50 to 200 hours on their speeches outside of class time during the semester.
“Extra curricular doesn’t sum up the value of what we do,” Steele said.
The students are exhibiting their competitive side, and that outlet to perform allows them to gain confidence along with a polished articulation in communication, Steele said. “It’s like a drug that’s not so bad for you, but you get hooked.”
Regarding competitions past and present, Steele is quick to mention the success of an English as a Second Language student taking second place in a pro tournament a just a few years back.
The student, Sergio Suhett, had learned to speak English just a couple years before joining the forensics team and had grown so much during the time he decided to compete. He is now pursuing a BA in communication studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Steele noted this as a favorite moment, being proud of the fact that his speaker had accomplished more than just an award for public communication and debate, but a personal growth and achievement in himself.
“The hidden victory is the students realizing their goals of transferring. Many of these programs have funding and are looking for talented junior college students to finish out their last two years of undergrad,” Hawkins said.
The forensics team has always been wildly successful. They take home first place awards at every competition and the team continues to grow stronger with the help of new faces and the determination of natives, Steele said. Although the squad takes home anywhere between three and 20 awards per competition, there are just as many beautiful accomplishments in personal growth.
Diego Perez, a returning member who placed first in three categories at the Santa Rosa Junior College Invitational last semester, also earned himself the Jack Perella top speaker award.
“He’s kind of a big deal,” Matt Pating, another team member quickly said after Steele pointed out Diego’s many accomplishments.
“Honestly I’ve never won that award before, it was an overwhelming feeling.” said a very humble Perez.
Perez, who won awards at almost every competition for two years now added that “if you love doing what you do, keep doing it.”
The first competition of the semester, Talk Hawk, will be at Las Positas on Jan. 31.
“We are also hosting the NCFA championship tournament,” Steele said. The tournament will be held on the Ocean Campus Feb. 20-22.