Summer forensics camp helps students build confidence

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Forensics is a type of competition between individuals and teams using various argumentative, speech and advocacy skills, and yet, many elementary, middle and high school kids don’t have the option to get involved in this kind of activity.

An annual summer camp at Western Kentucky University is working to fix that lack of access.

“It’s amazing to see young people come out of their shell, get out of their comfort zone a bit and share what they’re really thinking and feeling,” said Ganer Newman, director of WKU forensics.

Forensics helps kids accomplish all of those things, and WKU’s Summer Forensic Institute teaches them how to do so.

“That’s what the camp is really all about,” Newman added.

The nine-day camp brings in kids from middle school up through high school, including many who travel from out-of-state to attend the yearly event.

“Students are coming from all over the country here to Bowling Green to learn from these great coaches,” said Newman.

Nine different states are represented at this summer’s camp.

During their time on the Hill, students learn to refine their skills in three main categories: interpretive performance, informative debate, and extemporaneous speech.

“We have 30 minutes to memorize a seven minute speech,” said Emilie Tackett, a third-year camper from Lexington, Ky.

That’s no easy feat, even if some of these campers make it seem that way.

It wasn’t always easy for them either, though, but getting involved in forensics and a camp like the summer institute has instilled a new sense of confidence in all aspects of the students’ lives.

“Through working in forensics, I’m better able to communicate what not only I want, but I can communicate it clearly and without any fear,” said Branson Dow, a second-year camper from Indianapolis, Ind.

Many schools have seen lack of funding lead to forensics programs being cut, or not offered in general.

A camp like the summer institute addresses that, giving kids a chance to continue to grow, learn and find their voice.

“I have a lot more knowledge and expertise in politics and anything of that nature,” Dow added.

The skills learned at this camp help kids in the present, but will also assist them in many of their future endeavors and interactions as well.

“I carry this into school,” said Tackett. “I carry this into my home life, too. It’s just really good when I’m having a conversation with someone. It’s definitely helped me with my confidence.”

Building that confidence in children, and making sure they have the opportunity to do so, is one reason why it’s vital to keep forensics in the fold with camps like this one.

“It’s nice to know that forensics will keep on going even if there’s not a major push in the news or at schools,” said Dow.

The campers spend their entire week at the institute working on a speech or performance that they eventually get to present in front of the rest of the students at the end of the week.