The start of a new school year has created new opportunities for students to develop their interests in speech and debate. In particular, the speech team had a dramatic change in membership, with unfamiliar faces from various grades as well as new coaches. Regardless of experience, these determined members of the team possess high hopes to augment their accomplishments and to collaborate effectively as representatives of SIS.
“Initially, I was worried about trying out for the team mainly due to the judgment of other people,” said Hannah Yoo (10), Forensics member. “However, once I got in, I realized how everyone in the team wholeheartedly tries to make the practicing environment comfortable and supportive. I also appreciate the direct feedback from veteran members and the coach.”
Several former members – many who were seniors with honed skills acquired throughout their high school experience – had regularly placed in KAIAC tournaments and exhibited high-ranking performances. In an attempt to defy the odds, new students this year have approached the team with risk in means of attaining valuable knowledge regarding public speaking. Freshmen and sophomores have entered the threshold of an activity that appears to be daunting—forensics—but the upperclassmen and previous members have so far supported them with kindness and encouragement.
“As a veteran member and captain, I understand my role is essential to the team, and dedication takes a huge part,” said Yoon Lim (12), Forensics member and captain. “It is my duty to make newcomers feel welcome as well as provide constructive feedback to underclassmen members who have less experience.”
While new members are striving to make themselves feel comfortable, the central figure of the team, the coach, is also engaging in her first year as an adviser. As a former Forensics judge, Leslie Gregori, Forensics speech team coach and grade 9 language arts teacher, has been devoted in allowing students to adjust to the pressuring environment of public speaking through the verbal expression of their personal emotions. Her excitement and passion during weekly afterschool meetings on Wednesdays seemed to reverberate throughout the room as many felt rejuvenated by a new presence.
“The new coach seems to understand the experiences of a speaker and helps in a way that is beneficial to the nervous or conflicted emotions we might feel,” said Angela Kim (9), new Forensics member. “The comfortable and supportive environment makes me feel relieved that I tried out for the team, and as an extrovert, joining this team is such a great way to express myself.”
Coach Gregori has so far been working on transforming the team into an efficient unit of varying age levels with the implementation of new vocal practices to increase the confidence of students. In preparation for the tournament on Oct. 19, students were asked to stand in front of the classroom and read aloud alliterative statements with variations in tone and emotion. Furthermore, she prepared notecards in which the members wrote their respective goals on for the day’s meeting and the following. By utilizing methods as such, Coach Gregori increased the level of motivation and determination in the students for them to strive for greater ambitions.
“I am very excited to coach this year, and it can certainly be said that I also look forward to incorporating my literature skills to impact these students positively,” said Coach Gregori. “The motivation I bring to the team, I hope, will allow the students to feel better about themselves when they are up on the podium. This year, I am determined to bring out the passion of students to give the audience a fuller experience.”
The process of achieving success or gaining recognition for the students in the area of public speaking will be facilitated through the help of Coach Gregori and the collective effort of the team. With the many challenges yet to come, the students of the SIS Forensics team will dedicate their time and effort to represent SIS as a whole.