Don’t be surprised if you run into some well-spoken young people around Milwaukee over Memorial Day weekend. Around 3,600 high school students will be in the city through the weekend for the Grand National Tournament of the National Catholic Forensic League.
While the name is a bit misleading (students are from public and private schools from around the country), they’ll compete in a variety of public speaking disciplines ranging from oratory to dramatic interpretation in order to be named best in the country.
“I think one of the most important soft skills that we can teach students today is how to speak in front of an audience,” says Carrie Baker Jackson, a theater teacher and forensics coach at Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee. Jackson is also the League Moderator for the Milwaukee Diocese of the National Catholic Forensic League, which is hosting this year’s tournament.
“[It teaches] how to get up on your feet, how to analyze not only research, but think on your feet. And how to interpret literature, because when you’re able to interpret literature, you’re able to have empathy for others,” she adds.
The Grand National Tournament runs Saturday and Sunday at a variety of locations in downtown Milwaukee, including Milwaukee Area Technical College and Marquette University.