High school students spend a week brushing up on their communication skills with NIU Forensics

By Tony Osborne

DeKALB | High school students from across the Midwest spent the week on campus hoping to spruce up their speeches at the NIU Speech Camp.

The 26th annual summer camp helps high school students from Illinois and Iowa improve their communication skills before the high school speech season. Many of the camp attendees come from the DeKalb area.

“For students who compete on high school speech teams, it gives them a big head start,” said Judy Santacaterina, NIU Forensics team coach.

Santacaterina has been the director of the camp since its first year in 1987.

Over 50 students from 13 to 18 years old checked in at 6:30 a.m. July 10 to the Grant South Towers, the place they would call home for the next week. The students were not the only new residents.

“Even my husband and I packed up and moved into the dorms,” Santacaterina said.

Santacenterina and her husband were not the only counselors there. There were three students for every one counselor at the camp, Santacenterina said.

Santacaterina said the camp aims to help students in a multitude of areas regarding speech.

“We try to help the students understand the importance of communication skills and also to provide them with strong self confidence,” Santacaterina said.

According to Santacaterina, the category that struck most of the students was the studying of original comedies. The students would have time to create an eight-minute sketch that would be acted out in front of the student body.

The students also learned about humorous and dramatic interpretation, original oratory, prose and poetry reading and impromptu speaking.

Alli Littell, Naperville North High School senior, said her favorite part of the camp was the family atmosphere.

“Speech is my home away from home,” Littell said. “From this camp, I got a sense of what it means to actually be on a speech team. The most important thing to know is to just get your point across.”

A few of the students used the time with the teachers and counselors to fine-tune the speeches they will be presenting in the upcoming high school speech season.

Sara Wuchte, DeKalb High School student, said she spent the entire week writing her speech which argues in favor of turning garbage into energy.

Both students said they had a blast at the camp, and one wished she could come back again.

“If I wasn’t a senior, I would definitely be coming back next year,” Littell said.