Leadership Profile

What's Happening at Cedar Crest College

Byers Named Forensic Speech All-American

The Forensic Speech Team finished the 2011-2012 season competing at the American Forensics Association (AFA) National Individuals Events Tournament (NIET) in April, and squad member AnTionette “Toni” Byers was one of 13 students across the nation named an AFA-NIET All-American.

AnTionette “Toni” Byers

Byers joined a group of students from across the country that excelled within the realm of forensic speech competition, academic excellence, and community service. Toni is the third Cedar Crest College student to be named All American—one of the highest distinctions within the forensic speech community—in the last four years. She joins Michelle Tetreault and Monica Cawley—both from the Class of 2009—as members of this select group from Cedar Crest.

“This award is sort of a ‘lifetime achievement’ award which takes into account the students forensic speech performances, as well as their academic achievements and community service involvement,” said forensic speech team Director Tim Brown, whose team earned 85 individual and team awards over the course of the season. “Toni is a very well-rounded young woman who has represented our forensic speech team very well, and she is very deserving of this honor. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Byers said her experience on the forensic speech team has been a major component of her growth.

“Four years ago I was just a young freshman, unsure of herself and very uncomfortable in her own skin. Now in a few days I will be a graduate of Cedar Crest College,” she said. “Receiving the All American award was truly an honor and a humbling experience because it reminds us all that with hard work, self-confidence and perseverance anything is possible.”

Here is the essay Byers used to apply for the All American award:

As a child I was told that you were given a voice and it was your choice whether you used your voice for good or bad, but use your voice you must. That statement stuck with and as a young child I was always speaking up for others and standing up for what I believed was right. I never knew that I could combine my love of talking and acting until my first speech class, my sophomore year of high school.

From my first tournament I was hooked and my obsession continued all through my college years. The thing that I really enjoyed was that for ten minutes I was able to convey a message about a topic that I was passionate about. Each time I cut a program together it was as if I was sharing a piece of my soul with the audience. Each time I competed, each time I preformed my piece it was another chance for me to share my message and make a difference in someone else life.

The awards that I received where an added bonus, but the most important part was when people came up to me ask, “why are the homeless so important,” or said: “I never realized that the accessibility in college campuses was such an issue” or “I have an issues with my own weight and your piece truly inspired me.”

The people that I touched through my words, the impressions that I left behind each time I opened and closed my binder—those were the invisible trophies I placed upon my shelves at the end of each tournament. Like every good program, your ten minutes are up and the binder closes. As I close my binder for the last time, I realize that speech has taught me so much and has helped me grow into the amazing young woman I am today.

Looking back at eight years of speech I have learned and held onto the importance of using your voice and carrying a message. It is something I will use in my career as a social worker and for the rest of my life. We are granted one voice and use it we must, whether we use it for good or bad the choice is yours and use it I have.