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Team takes public speaking skills on the road


Are you in the market for a new i-Phone, or in the mood for a few laughs as you sit back and listen to a selection from “The Complete Works of Shakespeare Unabridged?” These topics and more are part of the high school forensic team’s competition.

Forensics is competitive public speaking, explained Kent City coach Stacy Brown. Students choose from categories such as poetry recitation, storytelling, dramatic performance, sales, informative speaking and broadcast.

Kinsey Dever pitches the iPhone 7 in her sales competition

“I have always done drama but this is different,” said senior Haley Kozal, who said it helped her gain social skills. “I used to be kind of quiet and a ‘keep to myself’ person, but being in forensics gives me so much confidence and forces me to interact with others – from here and other schools,” she said.

Sophomore Katie Schneider-Thomas agreed. “I joined to expand my acting skills but I like hanging out with a lot of other kids. It is a cool thing to be able to talk to others outside the group.”

Multiple benefits

Breegan Petruska said she chose to enter the poetry category because “it helps me express emotions.”

For competition, she chose two poems, each written by someone with a mental health disorder. With drastically different tones, she separates them with a short explanation about facing and understanding mental health issues. “One in five young people struggle with mental health issues…” she tells her audience, “…often those struggling cope by communicating through writing.”

Senior Kinsey Dever competed in an impromptu category where she would choose a question and speak “off the cuff,” but switched to the sales category last year. “It is interesting to be to see how different people handle different subjects,” she said. Through her experience, she “gained confidence and learned a lot about people…”

Forensic coach Stacy Brown introduces the rotations at the meet held at Kent City

“The kids who compete are sharpening their language skills in many ways,” said Brown. “Those who do interpretive events, such as poetry or storytelling, select scripts and texts to memorize. If they do the public address events, such as informative or sales, they research, write, and edit their own material. And of course, they practice speaking, which is the scariest part of this competition.The courage it takes to perform in front of a judge is daunting, but our students are brave in the face of it.

“And I think it’s an adrenaline rush for some of them.”

Just for the fun of it

Isaac Schnicke is competing in the multiple category – or as he called it a skit. Drama is what calls him, but like his teammates, he does forensics to meet other people who also love drama and for fun.

Last season Isaac also wrote a script for competition, said his grandfather Robert Ranney, who was at a recent meet to watch the action. “He took the “Finding Nemo” movie and condensed it and actually wrote the whole script. We’re so proud of him and we really have enjoyed watching him through the years.”

Fun is also how Isaac’s friend and forensic partner describes the competition. Said Cesar, “I find that sort of thing – such as drama, art and photography are super fun to do, and later when I am in the real world, I will have less time to do them. I figure I should partake in as many as I can now.”

The nine-member team is preparing for regional competition coming mid-March.

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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