A cocktail of excitement, stress and fatigue sets in on eight Las Positas College students during over 12 hours spent on a trans-Atlantic flight. The cabin of the Delta Airlines 767 is swamped with beta-endorphins and sweaty palms, because they are on their way to an international competition in Brussels. The passengers emitting the mixture of hormones are better known as the LPC Talk Hawks.
Their official title is the Las Positas College Forensics team, and they are perhaps the most active academic group on campus who also serves as a representative for all students progressing at LPC. Practicing their speeches and performances for sometimes more than 20 hours per week, some members feel a stronger bond than the word “team” lets on.
“The team is really just a large family. I coined it in the beginning of the year as the ‘forensifamily,’” Talk Hawk Sarah Kellner said. “Each person on the team plays their part in making it a positive experience for everyone.”
Kellner commutes all the way from Brentwood, citing the superior educational experience Las Positas offers over the two community colleges that are closer to her.
While some may think of crime scene investigations, forensics, as it applies to speech, is the study of formal debate, public discussion and argumentation. The American Forensic Association believes that the Latin word “forensis,” which is closely related to “forum,” is how the term forensics came about.
This year, Kellner was the sole member of the Talk Hawks with experience.
“Each person on the team plays their part in making it a positive experience for everyone,” Kellner said. “I felt that since I was the only returning member for the second year, I had the duty to help novice competitors grow and excel. I have always told all of the teammates that I was here for them to run any of their events in front of and get feedback and peer coaching. “
There are many different types of speeches in forensics, such as informative, impromptu, persuasive, speech to entertain and prose or poetry interpretation. There are 14 total variations that the Talk Hawks prepare and present.
An interpretation consists of a prepared act, utilizing speech, body language and other forms of communication.
“We spend anywhere from 20 to 26 hours per week on top of other classes,” said Erica Efigenio, who plans on returning to the team despite the long hours. “This is a huge commitment.”
The commitment is not without its rewards, as the team recently returned from a national competition in Southern California called Phi Pho Pi. In March, the team traveled halfway across the world to Belgium for an international competition.
“Getting to tour around in Belgium was one of my favorite moments,” Efigenio, who grew up in Pleasanton, said. “Getting to tour around in a foreign country was amazing. Our hotel was right next to a zoo, so that was our view during breakfast. There were street vendor waffles with raspberries, powdered sugar, whipped cream, we just loaded it up.”
During Phi Pho Pi, Efigenio presented a prose interpretation, cutting it down into a cohesive 10-minute performance.
“Your job as the interpreter is to bring the story to life,” said Efigenio. “Its characters, what they are doing, how they feel.”
Her piece was about a middle-aged Irish woman named Loretta who works as a stenographer and suspects that her husband is cheating on her. An ace in the hole for Loretta, she is able to see out of her glass eye, which she used to catch her philandering husband.
All the laughter, tears and hard work have not come without instruction, and the team members spoke highly of coaches Jim Dobson and Tim Heisler. Efigenio called them “the best coaches she’s ever had.”
“Jim and Tim are characters, to say the least. They’re so silly. I’ve played basketball, swimming and other sports, but they’re the best coaches I’ve ever had,” she said.
Kellner echoed Efigenio.
“Tim and Jim really work fantastic as partners in the forensics community,” Kellner said. “They are the yin and yang to it, truly. They are amazing figures to model yourself after in the speech community and quite large shoes to fill. Jim sets the bar high not because he wants to win, but because he believes we are capable of great things. He once told me ‘I believe in you.’ Coming from a man of few compliments, it was something that I will never forget. It was like getting approval from your idol, or in my case, my personal forensics inspiration.”
Heisler and Dobson are just a small part of the Talk Hawks dynamic, with a flurry of different personalities. Talk Hawk Joshua Thompson is described by teammates as a go-to-guy, which is something that he not only agrees with, he embraces as well.
“I try and help everybody out,” Thompson said. “I feel protective and loyal of the people in the room, when people have problems I’m gonna sit there and listen to them and make sure they’re ok.”
For Thompson, there is one teammate who he gets along with like nobody else on the team.
“Kimbria (Mitchell) has the same type of personality as I do,” Thompson said. She’s very open with herself, we have cool handshakes. There are very few people that can completely disagree with what I’m saying and me not be upset that they’re disagreeing with me. There’s few people who I can argue with and not end up frustrated. There are few people that I know that I have that sort of relationship with.”
The competitive season is now over and there is now time for the team to unwind. The former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, once said “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” So to gain the necessary competitive advantage, the returning Talk Hawks have vowed to work over the summer, though it is not required, to return well prepared for their next international competition in Paris, France.