Thursday, March 17, 2011

Half the Team Breaks at Villiger!

Success at St. Joe's

By Jackie Martinez

A whopping twelve people went on their second away tournament of the season, competing at the Villiger Invitational at St. Joseph's University. The first speech competition was at Yale University in Connecticut; returnees included Sahirah Johnson, Norberto Troncoso, Emmanuel Cruz, Joy Akinfenwa, Monica Lindsey, Tiffany McLarty, Oliver Askia, Marissa Charlemagne, Jyeisha Reyes and Jackie Martinez. These ten veterans brought along two very promising and committed newbies: Dianeiris Vasquez and Simone Johnson. Chaperoning the squad was Bronx Prep Speech coach, Andrew Simon and Justine.

Although this time, we had a 15-passenger van instead of the 12-passenger we had during our Yale tournament last late September it still seemed close and tight-knit which is just a wonderful representation of how the team is growing and prospering. For about 3 hours, we joked, reminisced, brought the family-feel back between us all and most of us slept; anticipating the long night that was to come for us.

As we practiced and polished our pieces for this tournament the few weeks prior -- we were feeling confident and ready to take action at the Villiger Tournament on St. Joseph's beautiful campus in West Pennsylvania. We arrived slightly late, due to some miscommunication but arrived to work nonetheless.

The head speech captains, Tiffany and Monica dropped in to the tournament a little bit earlier than the rest of us to sign us all up and make sure that everything was prepared for us to compete. Success in this tournament was very difficult to come by, but with members of the team entered in varied brackets, we cut it down short which led to great achievements.

Oliver Askia, competing in Original Oratory at his third tournament of the season, broke to the next round, because of the exceptional scores he had received in each of his rounds. This was his first break in this specific category throughout his years of being active in speech.

The Johnson sisters also broke into the Quarterfinals; Simone in Oral Interpretation (Prose/Poetry) and Sahirah in Dramatic Performance -- A long-awaited success for her and this piece which she has been working on since Speech Boot Camp held in August before classes had begun.

Dianeiris Vasquez also broke at her second tournament in a row in the category of Oral Interpretation. Her appearance in the Semifinals was a huge achievement for Dianeiris considering she is only a freshman, competing in speech for the first time.

The duo team consisting of Tiffany and Monica with their piece titled “The Bubbly Blackgirl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” broke all the way to Finals where they won first place for the second time in a row-- this being the second time they have ever performed it in a tournament which just goes to show that the hard work that these students put into their pieces and the commitment they put into making it unique -- it shows with bright colors and very large trophies!

In the end, after we left the awards ceremony and played a few rounds of “Big Booty” with some speech participants from another school, and took group pictures, we brought home two trophies and determination for the next tournament we will face at George Mason University.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big-time Joy at GMU

BP Students Shine at a Classic in December

By Norberto Troncoso

The Bronx Prep Speech Team ended their 2010 competing year with a big finish at a national tournament - the Patriot Games Classic, hosted by George Mason University. Joy Akinfenwa led dozen-strong BP squad with a spectacular 6th place finish in Poetry and a quarterfinal finish in Prose. Sahirah Johnson and Clementina Nyarko also finished big by reaching the quarterfinals in Dramatic Interpretation and Impromptu, respectively.

Joy Akinefenwa, a rookie in her first year competing in forensics entered in four categories for the tournament: Poetry, Prose, Drama, and Impromptu. She worked rigorously to reach the Quarterfinals of two events - known as "double-breaking". She worked hard even as her voice dwindled away, advancing to the Semifinals in Poetry. With the whole team cheering her onl, Joy progressed to the Final round - putting her in the final six of a competition that began with over 100 hundred competitors from all over the nation and marking her as a top notch competitor at the Patriot Games. Her finish also qualified her for the New York State Championships in Oral Interpretation, where she will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with.

Sahirah Johnson, a one-year veteran competitor of the speech team, made a big debut last year when she qualified for states after joining the team in December. She was in good form at one of the biggest tournaments of the year, portraying Billie Holiday, while mentoring students in the Bronx Prep Academy. Sahirah competed in Prose, Poetry and Drama for the tournament and showed great progress. She broke into the Quarterfinals and also earned her qualification for the State Championships.

Clementina Nyarko, a new addition to the team, was competing at GMU in her first away tournament and had a great finish. She was triple-entered, but mainly focused on her Impromptu entry and managed to break at a national tournament - an acknowledgable feat for any rookie on the team.

After a long, exhausting tournament with the whole squad competing in an average of 11 rounds on the weekend, the team went back to the hotel for a homemade Mexican feast. They prepared make-your-own tacos and quesadillas in the hotel rooms and had time to bond and grow together as a family - a relaxed and wonderful finish to an intense and successful tournament.

Recognition is also due to first-time competitors Oliva Lettsome and Omar Ortiz, who also competed in their first away tournament.

With a squad of over 20 students regularly competing locally, the team prepares for a 2011 like never before.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bronx Prep Speech: Bigger and Better

11-13-2010 (Fordham Prep, Bronx NY)

The Bronx Prep Speech Team posted its first championship win of the season with a 1st place finish in Duo Interpretation by Team Captain Tiffany McLarty and her partner, Monica Lindsay. Also, Simone Johnson, a newcomer to the Speech Team, broke into Finals and won 4th Place in JV OI (Junior Varsity Prose/Poetry) - an impressive finish in a field of over 80 competitors. The Team also won 9th Place in the Team Sweepstakes award, which includes the scores of the team's top competitors and ranks the schools against one another for their overall finish in the tournament. This means that on Saturday, Bronx Prep was represented as a Top 10 Speech Team in New York City for the 2nd time this season.

In addition to the aforementioned accolades, BP Speech fans can celebrate the breadth of the squad representing Bronx Prep at Fordham. A whopping 17 entries squeezed into an uptown Bx15 bus to make the short trip up Third Avenue to the campus of Fordham University. The team smashed its previous record of 11 entries, set at the tournament three weeks earlier at Regis High School in Manhattan. This is big, exciting evidence that the Bronx Prep Performing Arts Academy is yielding big time results for more and more students every week.

Several team members were making their season debut and deserve their own shout-out. Congratulations to Clementina Nyarko, Rose Wirekoh and Melanie Nyarko who all broke into their seasons in big ways, posting first and second place finishes in their rounds of JV OI.

These newbies have a lot to aim for, as modeled by the members of the team who not only landed in finals, but finished high enough to earn the coveted prize at every speech tournament: a half-qualification for the New York State Championships. Tiffany and Monica (who was competing for the first time ever in Duo Interpretation) and Simone (in only her second career tournament) are now all one strong finish away from earning their spot at the State Championships in April.

They'll get their shot, along with the other top members of Bronx Prep's squad, this upcoming weekend at the prestigious Villiger Tournament, on the campus of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. The competition will be much stronger, drawing top speakers from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, but the reloaded team of 10-11 will try to recapture the magic and glory of the 08-09 team that boasted not one, but two championships at this national-caliber tournament.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BP Speech: Onwards and Upwards

October 23, 2010

The Bronx Prep Speech Team continued its growth with another successful local tournament over the weekend. Once again, team Manager Joy Akinfenwa led the way as she appeared in Finals for the second straight tournament. Simultaneously, this year's young guns each made their case to be crowned the new Rookie Sensation, with Dianeiris Vasquez staking the early claim, as she also reached the Final Round.

With a team of 11 entries, this was the biggest Bronx Prep squad to enter a local competition in several years. Many members of the young team were competing for their first time and deserve special recognition. These newbies are Samantha White, Dianeiris Vasquez, Paula Castillo, and Olivia Lettsome. Congratulations for putting in the hard work to prepare for your first tournament.

Of the Rookies, Dianeiris led the way - with impressive first place finishes in two of her first three rounds. Her scores put her in Finals, where she impressed the audience as well as the judges with her energy, spunk and comedic chops. She finished in a tie for 7th place - good enough for the coveted half-qualification for this year's State Championship.

In her own Final Round, Joy performed her free verse poem with precision and compassion. She stood on the stage at Regis High School for the second time in three weeks and once again finished at the top of the event - she paired her 3rd place finish from earlier in the month with a 4th place finish this time around and another half-qual for states.

Joy's two fantastic finishes deserve special note. She is now fully-qualled for the State Championships in April - the earliest a Bronx Prep student has qualified for the postseason in several years. Even more impressive, this is Joy's first year competing. She's learned the ropes very quickly, competing against young people with two or three years more experience and establishing herself as one of several students to beat in Varsity Oral Interpretation (Prose/Poetry) in the state of New York.

On the whole, the team enjoyed an extremely strong tournament. In addition to Dianeiris's two first place ranks, Paula, Jada, Olivia, and Jyeisha Reyes all posted first place finishes in a round of their own, while Emmanuel Cruz broke through with a 2nd and 3rd place finish. These are extremely encouraging results from a young team with limited experience, but loads of talent.

Next up for BP Speech is the home tournament - held at Fordham Prep just up the road - on November 13. Expect big things from this squad as the young guns will join the more experienced members of the team that were out of competition at Regis. Bronx Prep will be shooting for a Top Ten Team Sweepstakes finish as the group seeks to establish itself weekly as a top forensics program in New York City.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

BP Speech Begins Local Season on Cloud 9!


Bronx Prep's speech team began it's campaign in the New York Catholic Forensics League over the weekend and the results show only promise for this year's reloaded squad.

Joy Akinfenwa led the way with a huge 3rd place finish in Varsity Prose, while Sahirah Johnson reached the final round in Dramatic Performance and the whole team combined for a 9th place finish in the Team Sweepstakes awards.

Look to that 9th place Sweepstakes finish as a very positive indicator to big future success for this young squad of talented individuals. The Sweepstakes award uses a point system to add up the achievements of each single competitor in order to give each school attending the tournament an overall score. The award recognizes not only the achievements of a school at a given tournament, but also the size of the team they're able to prepare for competition (in the NYCFL, the Sweepstakes award is almost always won by one of the schools fielding the biggest team). In the past, Bronx Prep has been shut out of a Sweepstakes finish, even when seeing a student win a tournament, because the small size of the team has kept them out of the running. But Saturday, BP broke through into the top ten as the whole team left their mark on the tournament.

That team featured several students who are due recognition for competing in their first tournament ever. These were freshmen Lyvette Soto, Lisette Soto, Jada Gordon, and sophomores Simone Johnson and Omar Ortiz. Every one of these students posted strong ranks and enjoyed the thrill of competition for the very first time.

Meanwhile, the junior members of the Speech Team led by example. Although they're both new to competition, Sahirah Johnson and Joy Akinfenwa acted like seasoned pros as they were featured as Finalists in their respective events. Sahirah's portrayal of Billie Holiday at various stages throughout her life earned her a tie for 6th place - just shy of a half-qualification for the State Championships.

BP's other representative in a Final Round was Joy, who breathed life into a Langston Hughes short story set at sea and steamrolled into the top three, coming away with a prized half-qual for States. This was Joy's second tournament of her speech career, so she deserves serious recognition for placing against competition with years of experience on her. Her finish is a great sign of what may be to come.

...Ditto for the entire team. With the senior members of the Speech Team mainly sitting this tournament out, the young guns flexed some muscle and showed that they're ready to bring this program to the next level.

The second local tournament comes around in a few weeks and the stakes and possibilities will be even greater. If BP can continue to fill out it's teams, a lot more Final Round Judges may get a energizing introduction to some talented kids from the Bronx.

Flame on.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Big Start - BP students in Quarterfinals at Season-Opener


Norberto Troncoso and Monica Lindsay posted top-20 finishes at the prestigious Yale Invitational this weekend as the BP Speech season began with a bang.

This year's reloaded Bronx Prep Speech Team showed up on the campus of Yale University a dozen-strong - tripling the size of last year's team at this tournament. The sudden depth in the squad is a direct result of a team commitment to success that carried through the off-season, as most Bronx Prep speakers at the Yale tournament were seen here at the school, participating in the inaugural BP Speech Boot Camp in August.

Traveling with them were Mr. Simon, Ms. Q and chaperone-judges Ms. Williams and Mr. So - who came through for the team in a huge way for the BP competitors. A special shout-out and thank you to this so special pair.

The Yale Invitational is the first tournament of the year for many forensics teams in America. It's a national-caliber competition that draws students from New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, and even California. Success at this tournament is difficult to come by and a big showing is a strong indicator of who will be setting the pace for the season.

With this in mind, Monica and Nobrerto's achievements must be noted for the promising tone they set for the rest of the year.

Monica was competing in Oral Interpretation for the first time ever, but her results were hardly a surprise, as she worked with focus and determination over the summer to prepare for the Yale competition. She alternated performances of a program of poetry about Hurricane Katrina, with a powerful prose piece about a woman finding ways to deal with her miscarriage.

Norberto was competing in Humorous Interpretation, with his own very humorous, very creative interpretation of Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat - as a horrifying crime story. Like Monica, Noberto worked hard in August to set himself up for a big finish over the weekend.

Recognition is also due to several students who competed in their first tournament - no small achievement and something of a trial by fire at one of the biggest tournaments of the season: Jackie Martinez (Original Oratory), Jyeisha Reyes (Oral Interpretation), Emmanuel Cruz (Duo Interpretation), Joy Akinfenwa (OI), and Shakeel Hawker (OI). Props to each of you for preparing performances for national competition before the end of September.

This weekend, the team opens up the local season with the first tournament of the year in the New York CFL - Bronx Prep's local forensics league. Another larger roster could yield big results in the form of trophies and half-qualification for the state tournament. Tune in here next week for Saturday's results.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chris Moncrief: 5th in America!!!

Kansas City, MO - Bronx Prep, Bronx Prep, where you at, where you at? This question resounded from the midwest back to the east coast in June, when Chris Moncrief achieved the ultimate goal of a forensics competitor to answer clearly and proudly: the NFL National Final Round! Chris performed on a massive stage for fourteen judges and over a thousand audience members while his performance was beamed live via the internet to another cheering crowd back home. Let's take a step back to see how this marvelous moment came to be.

Back in February, Chris competed at the NFL National Qualifier against other New York City students in Original Oratory - the forensics event that requires a student to write their own ten-minute speech and gives them the opportunity to speak their truth when delivering it in a competition. As a senior, Chris is a veteran orator - he had qualified for nationals in 2008 and 2009, so the surprise wasn't his appearance in Qualifier's Final Round - it was his second place finish (after winning first place at this tournament both year's prior). The finish still qualified him for nationals (the top three competitors moved on to represent NYC in Kansas City), but was indicator of the work still be done.

So, Chris went to work. Steadily, amidst all of the responsibilities that come with being an overextended senior, Chris found the time to work with his coaches and on his own to improve the text and delivery of his speech - a ten-minute treatise on the roles that we play in our American society. His work paid off in the form of a State Championship in April, followed by a third place finish at the CFL Nationals in May - the biggest tournament in the US, besides the massive NFL Championships.

In June, Chris left for Kansas City as Bronx Prep's only entry in the tournament. His goal: The Final Round. A national final round is massive deal. Finals of every event happen at a specific time (rather than simultaneously) so that the entire tournament can watch the best of the best compete for the title of National Champion. The round is streamed live on the internet and saved for posterity in the form of a DVD to be distributed throughout the country as an example of best of the best. Finals consists of only six students and after a 7th place finish in '08 and a an 8th place finish in '09, Chris came in hungry.

Most tournaments feature three to five preliminary rounds in one or two days, but NFL nationals is the biggest tournament of the year. Chris scorched through his six preliminary rounds before clearing through to the octofinal rounds and setting the pace for his other competitors. Not content with the top 60 in America, he walked, talked and looked like a champion, moving on briskly to the quarterfinals (top 30) and then the Semifinals (top 14). The crowd gathered as the tournament directors prepared to unveil the Final Round contestants. Suddenly, the sky burst open. The rain poured, lightning and thunder cracked and across the river in Kansas, in looked like a tornado was brewing. But inside, hundreds of excited teenagers held their breaths. Chris looked away as the sheet with the finalists was unveiled; then he looked up with confidence, saw his name, and the celebration began.

Finals at NFL Nationals was a whole other level - both for Chris and for Bronx Prep, who had never seen a student advance this far in forensics. Chris was required to be at the Kansas City Expo center for a mic check early in the morning the day prior to the final round to get a look at the stage - and the space (a massive convention center with room for the thousands of competitors and coaches that assemble for the final rounds). After practicing during the day and watching final rounds in other events in the evening, Chris went to bed knowing the next day he would compete for a national championship.

Meanwhile, back in the South Bronx, preparations were being made for the big day. Chris's final round was streamed live on the internet and his teachers and principal at Bronx Prep helped make arrangements to bring the school community together to celebrate his achievement. The entire middle school assembled in the gym as the projector and big screen were set up for the live feed of the final round. His friends, classmates and protoges looked on as Chris, in Kansas City, was escorted backstage before walking proudly to the center to deliver the biggest speech of his forensics career.

Chris delivered his final speech as a high school competitor with confidence, passion, grace and dignity. He won the admiration of a huge crowd as well as that of his competitors and walked off the stage with much to be proud of. Throughout the final days of the tournament he was approached by strangers who had seen his piece and wanted to offer their praise and congratulations.

That evening, Chris stepped to the stage one final time to find out where he had placed. For this blogger, there should have been no question - he was tops in the round and the best in the country. But this is a big country. Personal and regional preferences come hand in hand with the breadth and diversity that make the NFL National Tournament the biggest and best of the year.
The tinge of disappointment of not finishing first must be weighed against the long-lasting effects of Chris's remarkable achievement.

After returning to the Bronx from Nationals, Chris coached younger orators at an institute in Massachusetts before running his own Oratory Camp at the first ever Bronx Prep Speech Boot Camp. Between his work for his teammates over the summer and the lasting image he presented to the hundreds of younger students watching him on the big screen, Chris left an impression that will have major implications at the Bronx Prep Charter School and elsewhere. He put his school and his community on the map by stepping out in front of thousands to make his voice heard. And he showed the students at BP how much is possible with focus, passion, dedication and poise.

In his 5th place finish, Chris posted a victory for the ages. He showed thousands of people what a kid from the South Bronx can do; and he showed hundreds of kids from the South Bronx what it means to look, act and speak like a champion.