Category Archives: School Articles

By Sydney Jones

For the Purple Heart veterans of Lynchburg, their service never fully stops when they retire, but transitions into volunteer work serving their fellow veterans and community members.

“As a Vietnam veteran, we were treated terribly,” said Gary Witt, who is the Commander of the Lynchburg chapter of The Military Order of the Purple Heart. “We’re now trying to make ourselves recognized and be involved in our local community so that doesn’t happen again.”

There are many different outreach opportunities that the veterans are involved in, like benefit luncheons, fundraising and automobile donations to disabled or veterans in need. They are also partnering with the Desmond Doss Memorial Run in October to raise awareness for local veterans.

Since the city of Lynchburg joined the Purple Heart community in April 2016, the city’s leaders have been dedicated to raising awareness for veterans and Purple Heart recipients and have set up Purple Heart parking signs at locations all over the city.

“When Lynchburg became a purple heart city, they challenged all of the surrounding communities to become purple heart communities. This eventually turned into the purple heart trail,” said Witt.

According to the Purple Heart website, The Purple Heart Trail was created in 1992 and honors all the men and women who have received the Purple Heart medal and is marked by signs along various highways.

“Some of the things we’ve done to gain recognition has brought the Lynchburg community together; we want to make sure veterans and others who live in Lynchburg know we’re here if they need us,” Witt said.

They have also been increasing outreach to universities which led them to set up a booth at Get Downtown, an event the city of Lynchburg hosts in order to connect college students with local culture.

“We are trying to reach the students coming here, it’s hard to get young people involved because they don’t realize the impact of the military.” said Witt about the importance of reaching out to a younger generation. “I remember when I came back, I wanted nothing to do with veterans. But spreading awareness with different events is important to create a relationship with young people.”

This summer Liberty University was the first college campus in the state of Virginia to become a Purple Heart campus. There is now a reserved parking spot for veterans at DeMoss hall and on November 11, Liberty will host the Lynchburg Veterans Parade.

Veterans are some of the most important members of a community, and it is extremely important for younger people to connect and serve with them in order to create a stronger bond between generations.

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The Fear Of Not Speaking In Public

By Sydney Jones

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 74 percent of Americans suffer from public speaking anxiety, and the only fear that is statistically greater is the fear of death.

However, college students who are on Liberty University’s forensics team willingly compete in public speaking events around the country on multiple weekends during the semester.

Denise Thomas, the head coach of the forensics team, enjoys watching the students on the team grow and become proficient speakers.

“Seeing the students grow and develop is my favorite part of being a coach,” Thomas said. “I love seeing a student who has just a seed of an idea, develop that idea and become more passionate and excited about the piece they are presenting.”

When students compete in forensics speech they are required to take a piece of literature or an issue and analyze it through dramatic interpretation and original speeches. Through preparing speeches, members of the team learn valuable lessons.

“Forensics forces you to be more self-aware,” said Lindsey Ball. “You can never go up in front of your judges with a passive attitude. You need support and confidence in what you believe. That is one thing that forensics has taught me.”

Ball is a sophomore at Liberty and has been competing in forensics for six years. She says that public speaking has helped her to become a more open-minded person, but it has also taught her how to defend her beliefs.

“Listening to other competitors and their views allows me to understand what I believe, be able to defend what I believe and realize what I don’t believe,” Ball said.

Forensics is a great extracurricular for any skill level, and can help break down the fear most people associate with public speaking.

“Students who lack confidence or skill through forensics can grow into a terrific speaker,” Thomas said.

Michael MacDowall, a sophomore at Liberty, is brand new to forensics. Although MacDowall has a background in debate and does not struggle with public speaking anxiety, he believes that forensics can help break the fear of public speaking.

“I think a lot of the fear of public speaking comes from a lack of doing, and people feel a lot of pressure when they’re speaking because they do not speak in front of people often. Frequency lessens that pressure,” MacDowall said.

Fear of public speaking is something that students on the forensics team actively fight against. Ball says before she started competing on the forensics team in high school, she had severe public speaking anxiety, but now enjoys competing.

“Conquering a fear is one of the most positive things you can do for yourself in order to grow your identity and character,” Ball said.

Because it is a team sport, forensics can foster strong bonds between students on the team and the coaches. The coaches are responsible for giving constructive criticism and helping the students become more well-rounded speakers.

“The coaches have created an environment that encourages everyone to keep getting better, and they foster growth within my own skill set,” MacDowall said.

Thomas also believes that as the forensics team coach, she is preparing the team for success in their professional careers.

“Employers are always looking for confident, competent speakers who can understand information and give a logical answer,” Thomas said. “Forensics allows you to do that and teaches you confidence in yourself and your opinions.”

Forensics is not just about public speaking. Ball believes the friendships that are formed between teammates and competitors from other teams are valuable in learning how to work together and communicate well in a group setting.

“My teammates are there to encourage me, build me up and critique me when I need it,” Ball said. “We are working together as this mechanical unit where everyone has different areas that we’re passionate about but we all work together as one.”

Public speaking is a legitimate fear that many people struggle with, but forensics allows students from all over the country to articulate ideas and learn skills that will carry over into their careers.

“Forensics is unique because you get to take a few moments of someone’s life and be able to touch them and influence them; once you focus on the message you want to tell other people, you won’t be as nervous,” Macdowell said.