Since 1996, Del Mar College’s Vocal Viking Forensics team has provided an opportunity for any student to compete in speech activities at the collegiate level.

Forensics, not to be confused with criminal investigation, is an activity intended to help students improve their public communication skills through competition. Although competition is an important aspect, the team believes the experience and growth of the team members is more important than the trophies.

“I am competitive and I love to get trophies, but I also value the experience,” speech instructor Sarah Contreras said. “You don’t have to come in with past experience. You can be a beginner and you don’t have to bring home a trophy to improve.”

There are three categories for students to compete in including public address, oral interpretation and debate.

“We are open to any enrolled Del Mar student,” Contreras said. “You can be enrolled in one class or three. It doesn’t matter if you’re part-time or full-time.”

The team travels to compete against colleges and universities across Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas. The team plans to attend nationals in Reno, Nevada, in April.

“Our first competition is Oct. 19, and we are only going to two tournaments this fall. In the spring, we’re going to five tournaments,” Contreras said. “We are very fortunate that our school supports this activity and it’s no monetary cost to the student. The only cost to the student is time and commitment.”

According to Contreras, writing their speech is a huge time commitment in the beginning for students.

“When I say time and commitment, they will spend the majority of the time setting themselves up for the activity,” Contreras said. “Once we start competing, it’s the weekends that we travel and in between those weekends meeting with the coaches to keep it fresh and improve.”

The team meets at 10 a.m. every Friday in Room 102 of the Memorial Classroom Building to discuss upcoming tournaments and showcase speeches. For active students, there could be scholarship opportunities.

“I’ve had several students get small scholarships to large universities,” Contreras said. “When you’re competing and rise up to that level, there’s an opportunity for you to get scholarships elsewhere.”

Those who join the team can expect a friendly environment that will improve their likelihood of success.

“We lean on each other and we spend a lot of time together, so we end up being a family for one another,” Contreras said. “I am a firm believer that communication skills are vital and necessary for your success, no matter your major.”

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