Madison Cooley makes forensics look easy.
In a lively, polished solo performance, she builds a convincing case that it is up to everyone to take a personal stand against intolerance whenever they encounter it.
On April 8, the New London Board of Education heard the original oratory Cooley will perform at the Grand National Tournament in Philadelphia over Memorial Day weekend.
Cooley is one of three New London High School students to qualify for the national forensics competition. Trillian Schlaeppi, will compete in dramatic performance; and Emily Sommer, in student congress. All three are juniors.
Tyler Ward, also a junior, is an alternate, in student congress.
Cooley wove facts and statistics into her oratory, citing the sources, speaking from memory – no notes or teleprompter. Her skillful theatrical use of gesture and facial expression made the 10-minute informative speech entertaining.
“People don’t realize how long a 10-minute span of time is to just speak,” forensic coach Mariah Ervin said later in the week.
The 10-minute oratory is the result of months of research, writing and rewriting, memorization and practice, Ervin said.
To make the cut for the national competition, forensics team members had to place in the top five in their category at a national qualifying tournament March 18 at Waupaca. That tourney included 25 schools, with some students competing in six rounds.
For the student congress, Sommer wrote a bill on technology updates, detailing how public school districts should handle technology. The model congress functions like the real thing, Ervin said, with students writing bills, giving speeches and debating proposed legislation.
Schlaeppi’s solo acting piece, “Chain,” by Pearl Cleage, portrays a young girl struggling with addictions to crack cocaine and methamphetamines.
“These three girls really span the spectrum that forensics cover,” Ervin said – speech, debate and acting.
Ward, who finished sixth at the qualifying tournament, will go to nationals if one of the top five can’t make the trip. He wrote a bill proposing an end to the Electoral College.
Ervin said the district has a strong forensics program that begins in the middle school. Students in grades seven and eight travel with the high school team to compete in five tournaments during the season against the older students.
“That is part of the success of our program,” Ervin said. “It’s great to get kids involved that young.”
At any level, forensics, gives students an opportunity to improve speaking skills they’ll need after high school in college and work situations, Ervin said.
The national forensics tournament begins with a day of preliminary rounds. Those who score in the top half go on to a second day of competition, with quarter-, semi- and final rounds. There are seven different events; each student competes in one.
With 2,500 to 3,000 participants, “competition is very stiff,” Ervin said. “It’s pretty tough to make it there.”