WEST CALDWELL, NJ - Besides their obvious claim to fame, what do actors Brad Pitt, Zac Efron, James Earl Jones, Kelsey Grammer, Ted Turner, singer Bruce Springsteen, Bill and Hillary Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Oprah Winfrey all have in common? They were all forensicators. 

Forensics, a competitive form of public speaking that involves both interpretive reading and speech recitation, is currently offered at the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District’s Grover Cleveland Middle School as part of its Gifted Academic Program (GAP), but is unavailable in any form at the high school. Looking to build on their successes at the middle school, several students from James Caldwell High School, West Caldwell, petitioned the district’s Board of Education and won last month, asking to form the club that focuses on the art of declamation and interpretive reading. The club will be open to all interested students at the high school. 

The middle school, which currently competes against a variety of nearby towns, including Livingston, Chatham, Nutley, Florham Park, Morristown, Randolph, Bernardsville, and others, has a long track record of performing well at the forensics competitions, earning first place trophies and first place overall awards several years running. When the students arrived at the high school, they quickly realized that a Forensics Club was not available and they set the wheels in motion to create one.

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Planning for the future of the club are: 
  • Rachael Burrows, sophomore
  • Nicole Garamella, senior
  • Abby Lebet, sophomore
  • Regina Peters, junior
  • Hannah Rothstein, sophomore
  • Lydia Weilgus, freshman.

“As a shy and quiet person by nature, Forensics has opened my eyes to the enjoyment and benefits that accompany public speaking,” said tenth-grader Rachael Borrows.

Stated eleventh grader Regina Peters, “It teaches life skills. It was far and away one of the best academic experiences I’ve ever had.”

The club, despite not having met formally, has already attracted the interest of students in grades nine through twelve, some of who were never involved in the competitions. Competition categories include Oral Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Comedic Interpretation, Dramatic Duo and Comedic Duo.

“We hope to compete locally and perhaps nationally,” added twelfth grader Nicole Garamella.

From left: Abby Lebet, Hannah Rothstein, Nicole Garamella, Regina Peters, Rachael Burrows and Lydia Weilgus Credit: Christine Corliss

At their first meeting held last week, the students discussed fundraising options. In order to officially fund the club, the group needs to raise at least $4,500 for the current school year and $4,500 for the 2014-2015 school year. After that, if the group attracts students, it will be eligible for district support through the Board of Education. 

To compete this year, the group needs to raise the necessary funds by the end of November. This will provide the members time to practice and enter competitions during the winter and spring.

“My experience in Forensics has taken my knowledge, teamwork skills, and public speaking abilities to new heights,” said ninth grader and forensics participant Lydia Wielgus. Added Garamella, “We want to focus on other art forms. Forensics is both academic and an art form.”

The future club members are now looking for individuals and organizations willing to help them get started. Interested supporters can make a tax-deductible donation to “CWC Public Schools” with “Forensics” in the memo line. Donations can be mailed to Rachael Borrows, 5 Birkendene Rd., Caldwell, NJ.