A Summer Camp That Speaks to the Passions of High School Orators

Posted: July 21, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: July 21, 2010 at 8:03 am

By Tara Laskowski

Forensics campers outside Southside. Photo courtesy of GMIF

If you run into a teenager talking to herself as she walks across campus or see people who appear to be having conversations with brick walls, never fear. It’s most likely some of the campers in the George Mason Institute in Forensics (GMIF).

For two weeks this summer, 200 high school students from 30 states, as well as China, Spain and Nigeria, have gathered at Mason to learn about and practice their love for public speaking. Students have the opportunity to specialize in different areas of forensics, including Oratory, Extemporaneous Speaking, Student Congress, Public Forum and various interpretation events such as poetry and drama.

“It’s really fun, but it’s really hectic and chaotic,” says Peter Pober, GMIF director and director of Mason’s Forensics Team. “We absolutely love it, though.”

This is the sixth year that GMIF has taken place as a summer camp, and Pober says that it has been a great recruiting tool for Mason.

“This fall alone, we’ll have about 10 incoming freshman joining the Forensics Team who were former campers.”

The students not only learn from top-notch forensics coaches, but they also have opportunities to network and make friends, as well as experience the nation’s capital. Throughout the two weeks, groups of students have taken field trips to the Contemporary American Theater Festival, the Newseum, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. They even got to meet with one of President Barack Obama’s speechwriters.

“I love camp,” says Samantha Sapienza, a Mason sophomore and member of the Forensics Team who is helping out with GMIF this year.

“It’s so fun to work with the campers, and everyone is so enthusiastic.”

Among the 200 orators-in-training this year are two Chinese students who competed on national television in China in the CCTV Cup English Speaking Contest. Their prize for winning the contest was a scholarship to the GMIF.

The GMIF camp will culminate with a final showcase of presentations and speeches in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall at 9 a.m. on Sunday, July 25. The showcase is open to the public.

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