FSCJ students pitted their eloquence against the best from around the region at the 15th annual Star Invitational, an intercollegiate speech competition held at South Campus Nov. 13-15.
Bowen Barrs, a junior converged communications major, took home a trio of honors after placing fifth in the Prose category, second in After-Dinner Speaking, and first overall in Dramatic Interpretation. Barrs described the “absolute confidence” that comes from preparing and delivering speeches before an audience. “Every time you’re in a round competing, you’re learning how to be in front of people and learning those skills of communication,” Barrs said.
Speakers compete in 11 genres ranging from poetry to persuasive speaking to impromptu speeches thrown together in a matter of minutes. This year’s event drew more than 160 students from colleges in Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Texas. “Forensics is very unique in that regard, in that we compete in every single tournament against students at four-year colleges and universities,” said Professor Chad Kuyper, the club’s faculty advisor. “However, it’s very rewarding.” Kuyper, who also serves as president of the Florida Intercollegiate Forensics Association, calls the multi-event schedule of forensics “the academic equivalent of a track and field team.”
In addition to the Dramatic Interpretation title for Barrs, FSCJ also collected a third place in After-Dinner Speaking from Adonis Lane, a fifth place in Poetry from Julian López, and Top Novice awards for Emily Batista, Walker Ellison, Saman Jaberi, Corbett Maize and Madeline Windsor. “We have an amazing team of talented young people,” Barrs said. “We’re all novices, so this is brand new and it’s a learning curve like you wouldn’t believe.”
The learning curve may be steep, but not too deep for FSCJ’s speech squad, which learned to conquer the usual public speaking butterflies on the way to forensics success. “A lot of people say, ‘How do I not be nervous?’ I always say, ‘You won’t,'” Kuyper said. “It’s a good thing to be nervous. If you’re not nervous, it means you don’t care about the outcome. So getting to retrain your body and reframe nerves is a sign that your body is preparing to perform at its optimum level.”
Following the winter break, the team returns to action for January events leading up to the state championship at Tallahassee Community College, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 19-21. “I’m just really proud of the students this year,” Kuyper said. “For students that have almost no forensics experience, they have really come together, not just as individuals but as a team that supports each other. That’s something that you can’t coach.”