Forensics Student brings Home Gold Star


Leah Beyer, Staff Writer

The West Salem Forensics team had six students go to state this year, and one individual earn a gold medal. Forensics students choose, create, and perform a public speaking piece and present it to a panel of judges. In forensics, students compete in a division of their choosing, in categories ranging from prose, poetry reading, acting, and beyond. Students compete at the sub-districts, districts, and state level, during which judges rate the performance based on five elements which vary by category.

Sophomore Emily Fechner earned a gold star at State. She said, “My biggest achievement is this year, getting the 25/25 which is pretty nice, ‘cause last year I got the 24, which means it was second [place], one away from first, which [I] was kinda sad about that. But this year got to make up for it, ya know?” When asked why she chose to do forensics, she said, “I did that because…I go to speech therapy, so it’s just another way to practice those words,…since these people are judging your speech, you get the true feedback to know what [you] can improve on.”

Senior Arin Miller, who has been in forensics her entire high school career, loves the theatrical aspect of it. “I really enjoy theater, so I figured this would be pretty close to it,” Miller said, “I wanted to improve my public speaking skills.” Miller thinks it has helped, saying, “I feel a lot more comfortable when speaking in front of an audience now.” She connected learning “how to animate stuff” from theater experiences with helping her performances.

There were also some first-time senior participants, including Elsa Mitchell, who submitted an communications class piece and ended up qualifying for state. A farrago is, “like a combination of different types of literature. So mine was part of an article. It started with a poem, and then it went to part of a novel and then part of an article and then another section from a novel,” said Mitchell. She enjoyed getting the scores and feedback from the judges, saying, “I think it’s nice to be able to see what you can work on, especially because public speaking is something that you have to do…getting direct feedback on body movement and eye contact and specific places in your speech where you need to work on is good, and it’s helpful for the future.” When asked about something she didn’t think she’d like but ended up enjoying, Mitchell mentioned public speaking. “I guess like public speaking in general, the past couple of years I’ve gotten a lot better at and I’ve enjoyed a lot more as I’ve practiced it more and I can prepare more for bigger speeches. It’s a lot more fun for me.”

The two forensics coaches are Ms. Armstrong and Mrs. Volden, who both participated in forensics in high school and have been coaching for 19 years together. 

Armstrong says about the value of going through forensics, “I don’t know a career where you’re not going to have to talk to people. It’s just a given. And this is a way to be more comfortable, it’s a way to be super creative. So maybe you want to try out some acting but you’ve never been on stage before, this is a good practice for that. Maybe you are interested in something in media, so this would be good media training or on camera training or on air training.” Forensics is also very flexible with students’ schedules, something that makes it inviting to mentors and participants.

Armstrong and Volden are both proud of all their students who made it to state, and Armstrong commented on Fechner’s gold medal, saying, “When a student can go to the state level competition, that’s a win in itself right? Because they’ve been recognised how effective of a communicator they are and their performance abilities are really seen by other folks, so when they go to the state level and THEN they get a perfect score, that is incredible for that student, for that coach, and for the judges.” The judges get to see the final product of months of work put in by students and coaches, showing the amount of work that has been put into this performance.

Volden loves coaching forensics because she is giving back to the program that helped her tremendously in high school. She noted that it was because of her forensics coach that she chose to be a teacher. Now, she gets to teach English and enjoy literature performances as a forensics coach. Armstrong explained, “As a lover of literature, I get to see all of the best pieces of literature…maybe I’m judging a poetry round, I get to just soak in performances of great poetry. I feel like that’s a treat, like I’m being rewarded with this thing that I love to do, and I get to offer feedback too…so it’s about sharing in the love of these great pieces whether it’s poetry, fiction, drama performances,  group performance, I get to have fun that way too.”