Forensics club students forge path to bright futures
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A pair of Grayling High School students who have the gift to gab on the spot were recently recognized for their participation in a statewide competition.
Anna Fisher and Parker Learman-Blaauw, both seniors at Grayling High School (GHS), were the sole members of the school’s forensics team this year.
In their third year as part of the club, both qualified for the statewide competition each year through final regional competitions. Learman-Blaauw was the impromptu regional champ in 2017, while Fisher earned the same recognition for 2018.
On the lighthearted side of the subject, forensics involves dramatic interpretation reading poetry and prose. In more the intense part of the subject matter, participants are involved with public address, impromptu speaking, oratory, and broadcasting.
“It’s really a competitive speech sort-of-event, where if you are in dramatic interpretation you tell a story the best you can and if you’re in public address you try to argue the best you can,” Learman-Blaauw said. “But you don’t really have an opponent. It’s just you giving a speech.”
The participants are given quotes, statements of opinions from philosophers, musicians, writers, and political figures and pundits to address. Then, they have one minute to prepare a speech, come up with points that they want to discuss, and decide if they agree or disagree with the statement or quote.
They then have five minutes to give a speech.
“It’s really wide ranging and it’s up to the host of the event since a different school hosts every weekend,” Fisher said.
The subject matter can draw from history or current events. Even statements made by Homer Simpson, from the popular cartoon “The Simpsons,” to Dwight Shroot, from the television comedy series “The Office,” have been thrown into the mix.
Learman-Blaauw likened the competitions to a multi-faceted sporting event.
“It’s like track and field, but with speech, where there is a variety of different events and you go to different schools every week for meets,” he said.
School districts in northern Michigan and mid-Michigan with forensics include Manistee, Gaylord, Petoskey, Houghton Lake, Roscommon, Beaverton, and Alma. There are a few teams based out of the Upper Peninsula.
Students who attend multiple regional meets go on to the state competition, which was held at Oakland Community College this year.
During statewide competition, the Grayling club competed with students from charter schools in the metro Detroit area and other top students from different regions in the state.
Learman-Blaauw strives on being given deep concepts to address through off- the-wall subject matter.
“It’s one of the most fulfilling events, I think, because if you’re in there, and you get in stride and you can come with the points well enough, then it feels great to pull out an essay and deliver a speech very quickly on any subject matter,” he said.
Fisher said forensics has helped her gain confidence in both public speaking and writing.
“Nothing is as nerve racking as going up there and not knowing any idea of what the quote is going to be,” she said.
Fisher is the daughter to Tamra and Fred Fisher. Learman-Blaauw is the son of Brie Molaison and Jerome Learman.
Fred Fisher and Brie Molaison, who is the forensics club coach, were involved in forensics while attending Grayling High School.
The program had more participation in the past as part of traditional debate clubs.
Forensics has less visibility these days as students are involved in other activities and sports.
“Definitely, a lot of kids that are involved with drama could be involved in forensics, but they don’t have a lot of time because a lot of students here at GHS are involved with clubs, sports, and everything,” Fisher said. “Forensics takes a lot of time and participation, and the people that are interested in forensics are usually the busiest and are already doing a lot.”
Fisher ranked 12th out of 23 competitors as she reached the semifinal rounds to the statewide competition.
Both students said that forensics has prepared them for the future college plans and career endeavors.
After graduation, Fisher plans to attend North Central Michigan College to study substantiality and to get involved with clubs there.
“I’m starting small,” she said.
Fisher, whose family has a background in the wood products industry, hopes to use her education and speaking skills to promote ecology.
“I really enjoy science, but I like to be the one who communicates science into everyday language to the public, so that’s my career goal,” Fisher said.
Learman-Blaauw will attend Michigan State University to pursue a degree in psychology and professional writing.
“I like the ability to manipulate words in different ways and to communicate in different ways has really inspired me,” he said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster.”