Although Moorpark College student Steven Williams hopes eventually to become an astronaut, he has recently been switching among roles as an unemployed businessman, a street kid, a homeless woman and a Skid Row drunk.
Williams, 22, is one of 15 members of the college's forensics team. His role-switching comes during his dramatic presentation of a poem about the urban landscape, which he performed at a statewide speech and debate tournament last week.
The team won first place among 35 community colleges at the tournament, with seven of its members placing first in competitions ranging from debate to prose interpretation. The team is now preparing for a national contest in St. Louis at the end of the month.
Williams, an astrophysics major, said performing poetry is a nice change from his routine of science and math classes.
"Poetry has helped me express myself, the emotions," he said.
But like other speech team members, Williams competes in various categories. He placed first in the state contest in impromptu speaking, where contestants get seven minutes to prepare and deliver a speech.
Williams and other team members said that preparing and delivering speeches has improved their organizational skills and built their confidence. Jeff Tucker, a 20-year-old speech and political science major, was named outstanding speaker at the state tournament. Tucker said he was shy before he took his first speech class in high school.
"Fear of not being interesting enough to the other person" kept him from approaching people, Tucker said.
Now Tucker plans to become a speech professor. He'll teach his students, he said, that "whatever you have to say is important."