In a room full of college debate students, Starr Rivers stands out. The talented senior film studies major has worked to finesse her forensic speech skills during her college career here at UMHB. Rivers has advanced to the prestigious American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament and the National Forensic Association’s Championship Tournament in the last four years. She is also the first student from UMHB to qualify for AFA every year of her college career. At the recent Texas Intercollegiate Forensic Association State Tournament, Rivers was one of 10 students named to the All-State Forensics Squad.
“It has been an amazing four years doing UMHB Forensics,” Rivers said of her time with the speech program. “I have grown so much as a performer and person. Doing speech is a lot of hard work and dedication, and I am proud to have stuck with it. It is such a rewarding experience.”
While Rivers’ accomplishments are astounding, she feels that she would not have been able to achieve them without continuous support from her professors and a strong work ethic.
“Starr’s work ethic is excellent,” Forensics Director Kathy Owens said. “I never have to worry about her getting her ‘homework’ done. We meet twice weekly, and I give
her tasks to complete before our next meeting.
“In addition to her work ethic, though, Starr has quite a bit of natural talent,” Owens added. “She seamlessly moves from character to character in her performances, showing a great deal of empathy in each one. Through her performances, Starr has not only entertained but has been a fierce advocate for racial equality. Her performances are truly inspiring.”
The debate circuit that Rivers competes in is very competitive because it includes all of the schools in the area, no matter how big each school’s program is. Among the schools, the UMHB debate team competes against is the team from Wiley College, which preforms on a $100,000 budget because they are funded by Denzel Washington, who filmed “The Great Debaters” at their college.
“The competition is extremely rigorous,” Rivers said. “The competition is hard and challenging, but so worthwhile and beneficial, because it makes you a better competitor.”
While Rivers has accomplished qualifying for these events, she must compete at the tough level of competition against thousands of debate students across the country.
“Competing on the national level can be intimidating,” Rivers said. “Nonetheless, I feel so blessed and proud to be able to break some barriers that a small school like UMHB
has not done yet. I take pride in my accomplishments, but at the same time, I know there is still work to be done. There’s always new things to learn. I can always do better and be better.”
Rivers is thankful for everyone who has helped her achieve her goals in the competitive forensics circuit.
“When it comes to support—number one for me is God,” Rivers said. “I couldn’t do the amazing things I do without His grace. Next is Kathy Owens. She has always seen my potential, even before I saw it myself. Old teammates and UMHB alumni Katie Stringer and Carlee Jo Skinner are amazing friends and have always encouraged me. Lastly, my parents, siblings and close friends have always been there for me. I especially want to thank my mother—who is definitely my biggest supporter. I have always had a village of love and support in anything thatIdoandIamsoblessedto have that.”
She works for countless hours to make sure her speeches are perfect.
“It’s fun putting stuff together for speech,” Rivers said. “I start with a topic that I’m really passionate about and then find literature that I can perform that reflects my argument. I have done poetry interpretation, prose, dramatic interpretation and more,” Rivers said.
Rivers will be heading to the University of Alabama and California next, for both national event