Training Future Speech Champions

July 22, 2013

By Savannah Jones '14

While other teenagers spend their summers sleeping in or hanging out at the pool, students of the Summer Forensic Institute (SFI) start their day at 9 a.m. with tongue twisters and chants- a usual morning warm-up for these speech kids.  

Ninety-nine high school speech students from California to Illinois arrived on campus June 14 for the two-week workshop to be coached by the nationally acclaimed Bradley University Speech Team.

“SFI is an opportunity to introduce students to the tradition of excellence that the Bradley University Speech Team has come to be known for,” stated Bradley’s Director of Forensics Ken Young.    Young, Assistant Director of Forensics Justin Helmley, and team coach Tanya Melendez lead the camp.   

This is Helmley’s first year as the Assistant Director of the Bradley Speech team.  He joins the championship coaching staff following completion of graduate work from Minnesota State University in Mankato.

The Bradley coaches and current members of the speech team assist the future champions in generating topics for speeches and cutting pieces for interpretive performance.   “Analyzing scripts has made me a more analytical and focused performer,” said returning camper senior Ariana Beattie from Naperville, IL.

Beattie has been to SFI every summer since her freshman year of high school speech when she described herself as “timid.” After three summers Beattie said she learned how hard she really could work, and “it was fun along the way.”

Sophomore camper Ryan Town flew six hours from Thousand Oaks, California, for his first year of camp.   He expressed most students’ impression of the camp, “Bradley’s the best at what they do and I won’t accept anything but the best.”

SFI also introduces incoming freshman of the Bradley Speech Team to campus life at Bradley. Incoming Bradley freshmen on the team who decide to coach at SFI are training under a more experienced coach. This opportunity allows incoming freshman to adjust to college speech and to coach the high school campers.

Bradley Speech Team freshman Abby Hanneman from Naperville, Il is a former camper of three years, and has now made the transition to coaching.  “The high school kids have a lot of anxiety of the unknown when they first travel to Bradley, but we’re reassuring them they are here to learn to be top competitors,” Hanneman said. “Speech development is a process for a reason and so it takes a lot of time. Everyone works at a different pace.”  

At the end of the two weeks, students proudly present in an award winning festival.  Several high school students are chosen for the distinct opportunity to perform for a banquet for participants and their family.

At the end of the two weeks, students pack up their dorms and head home.  They are prepared months ahead of other high school speech competitors. The campers will bring back warm-ups and lessons learned at SFI to their own teams and tell stories about new friends

Underclassmen will anxiously wait for another summer at with the Bradley Speech Team and seniors will eagerly apply to Bradley University to continue a tradition of excellence first learned at Bradley’s Summer Forensic Institute.