“It was the best week I’ve ever had,” Oak Lawn High School junior Damian Samsonowicz said of the Northern Illinois University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ 28th annual Speech Camp, which provided campers the chance to improve their speech talents while developing life skills that will strengthen them throughout their academic and professional careers.
The six-day, residential camp in mid-July drew 35 high school students from as far away as New Jersey to write, prepare and develop performances and skills that they can take home and use throughout the school year in competition with their speech teams at their respective schools.
NIU undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and faculty, as well as alums of the Speech Camp program, volunteer to coach, teach and supervise the campers through the preparation of their performances and give them feedback on their work. Campers received consultation in the speech competition categories of:
- oral interpretation of drama and literature
- prepared public address
- limited preparation events
“The most valuable part of this camp is the counselors who work with us and the fact that we get to work in small groups,” said Rose Rucoba, a senior from Wheaton-Warrenville South High School.
“It has been great working with so many great people who offer very helpful feedback that I can use for my performances throughout the school year,” agreed Cade Hanson, a senior from Metea Valley High School in Aurora. “I have grown a lot this week in speech and as a person.”
The skills that the campers work to develop will help them in their personal relationships as well as their academic and professional careers, regardless of the professions that they will pursue.
“This is one of the best programs at NIU,” said NIU alumnus Jacob Imm, a Speech Camp counselor and assistant director of Alumni Events and Public Relations/web communications administrator for the College of Law.
“The skills they gain here are not just for speech competition but for life. Students learn to form an argument, do the necessary research to support their argument and prepare a defense of their argument. Students learn to be confident and aware of themselves, others and the world around them.”
The student experience at Speech Camp has been so impactful that it has drawn some of the campers back to NIU for their undergraduate and/or graduate studies.
“We have some alums who have gone through the whole cycle,” said NIU alumna Lisa Roth, the Speech Camp’s co-director and member of the NIU Forensics coaching team. “They were introduced to NIU as a camper in our speech camp which sparked their interest in attending NIU and now coming back to help in the program as an alum. It is wonderful to see that one week at camp would be so amazing that it would lead you back to start your career at NIU.”
Judy Santacaterina, Speech Camp founder and director, said that camp staff strive to make sure that the campers have more than just a great week.
“It is my sincere hope that they leave with more than just a draft of a speech or a cutting from a play. I want them to leave here feeling good about NIU and most importantly about themselves and their potential,” said Santacaterina who is also the acting director of the NIU Forensics team and director of the Bachelor of General Studies program.
“I never thought that I’d love camp so much,” Samsonowicz said as camp ended. “I’ll definitely be coming back next year.”