By Dan Gudino
The award-winning East Los Angeles College speech team competed in debate and public speaking Feb. 14 and earned first place at the Tabor-Venitsky Invitational at Cerritos College.
Last year, ELAC finished second in the Tabor-Venitsky tournament. This year, ELAC beat 19 schools to be crowned the Small Division Schools champ.
The speech team’s goal is to move on to the California Community College Forensics Association State Championship and eventually qualify for a national title as a way to say thank you to the community.
Th speech team received support from faculty, family and friends who helped with buying suits for those who can’t afford to dress for the competition.
Faculty members have donated gift cards and old unused suits . One faculty member allowed their name to be mentioned at a suit store for the “hook up,” ELAC speech coach and communication studies professor J. Edward Stevenson said.
“We’re good because we have a community of faculty and staff members that care and we notice it by giving back with wins and believe it or not, we support our school too. We go to music recitals, athletic events, we go to to shows at the theater because we recognize that the campus has to support each other,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson said speaking in public can be physically debilitating, terrifying and an adrenaline pumping experience.
“Each student brings their own fire, their own skill and experience to the team. I don’t think there is someone on this team we can do without. This is a six-hour-a-week course. That’s just the time these guys spend with us, in addition to that students are expected to practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday and weekends as well. You’re looking at 20 hours a week of time dedicated,” Stevenson said.
The 2015 California champions look to repeat this year with a group of chosen members that have been recruited for winning. Like in collegiate sports, the world of speech and debate has its competitive side off the stage.
“We’re planning on taking that tournament and nothing less. This confidence though is only coming from our work ethic and we’re hoping that we show that work ethic when we go to the tournament, speech team member and ELAC student Edward Francis Kunkle said.
“There’s a lot of recruiting. We always represent and recommend to high school students to come to our national award-winning school and get their education here at East L.A. It’s like in sports, we visit the high schools. It’s competitive,” Stevenson said.
When speaking in public, confidence is key. The confident Stevenson says this year’s team is a top-three team in California. A lot of credit is given to the new assistant coaches, called adjunct coaches, Alix Lopez and DeRod Taylor.
“My old high school coach, Tony Ugalde, really helped me find my voice and the coaches here at ELAC are helping me enhance everything that I’ve known and take it up to that next level,” Kunkle said.
No one is allowed inside during the recital of speeches. The door is locked to prevent interruptions.
“We first train students to understand the perspectives of someone else. We don’t focus on delivery or quality of speech. We require students to understand the literature and research first, so then they can bring those two together in a performance,” Stevenson said.
“People take the leap of faith. They join and sign up. The majority of our students have similar stories, where this is brand new to them and (they) don’t have immense speaking experience. Like Israel Beltran, who started in a Comm. 101 class, to now having offers to colleges for public speaking,” Stevenson said. Beltran was a part of the 2014 national championship team.
Those interested in becoming a part of the award-winning speech team can join by signing up for Communication Studies 107.