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RCC helps young speaker groom her performance

Alyson BrownAt age 17, Rappahannock Community College student Alyson Brown is already an experienced public speaker, with first-place standings in the local, district, and state 4-H competitions of 2009 to her credit, as well as third place in the Southern Regional competition, and just under the top ten in the Eastern National. She has repeated her success at the local, district, and state levels this year, and as a result has been invited to represent Virginia again at the Southern Regional competition in July and August, and the Eastern National in November; she hopes to achieve standings as high as she did in 2009, or higher. However, after taking RCC’s course in Principles of Public Speaking, which is required for the Associate of Arts and Sciences transfer degree, Brown says that even though she did so well in last year’s competitions, she felt as if she had “done everything wrong.” Dr. Karen Newtzie’s class, she said, “really showed me how to organize my opening and closing remarks better, as well as how to edit the contents of my presentations”; a very necessary skill, due to the fact that the time allowed for her talk was reduced whenever she advanced a level.

A home-schooled student (under the nationally accredited Calvert and Penn & Foster programs), Brown enrolled at RCC in Fall 2009, taking 19 credit-hours worth of classes. She continued with 21 hours in the spring semester, maintaining a 4.0 average throughout, which qualified her for membership in the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. For Summer 2010 she is taking two online classes—Medical Terminology from RCC, and Latin (because of its importance as the origin of many medical terms) from the University of Florida. She looks forward to graduating in May 2011, then transferring to a four-year school, possibly the College of William & Mary, Virginia Tech, James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, or the University of Virginia. At this point, she is looking into a co-enrollment arrangement that would let her take two or three classes per semester at William & Mary, and the remainder of her class load at RCC. Once she has earned her bachelor’s degree, she plans to join the graduate orthodontics program at Virginia Commonwealth University.

As well as enjoying the academics, lectures, and classroom interaction that RCC offers her, Brown feels that it was “a great stepping-stone” in other ways—it has allowed her to learn how college works without giving up the strong home support network that she has been accustomed to, and has acclimated her to the campus atmosphere and social life that she will experience after transferring. “I love all of my RCC teachers,” she says, “and all of them have really taken me under their wings.” Her only major adjustment in adapting to RCC classes, she says, was in conforming to deadlines for finishing her classwork. Though she is very much self-directed and has a strong work ethic, her home schooling trained her to learn at her own pace rather than abiding by strict timelines. But after observing the “balancing act” so many RCC students perform to fit their classes in around job, family, and other life responsibilities, she feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend school full time. “I think of it as my job,” she says.

Brown’s achievement in public speaking is even more of a triumph because she was extremely shy as a child. Her 2009 offering was a sophisticated PowerPoint presentation about equine bone structure, including detailed illustrations with highlighted and moving segments that coordinated with the points made in her oral presentation, and real horse bones which she displayed to the audience for emphasis. This year, her talk explained how injurious the effects of racing and training techniques can be when applied to horses that have not reached their full adult development, particularly as current breeding practices, as well as drawing from a too-limited gene pool, tend to concentrate on speed and “spirit” at the expense of strength and stamina. Complementing her solo performance, Brown also participated with 4-H teams in the Hippology (study of the horse) and Horse Bowl (a competitive test of equine-related knowledge) events. Her Hippology team placed second in the Virginia competitions in 2009, and fifth in Southern Regional; this year it repeated its second-place win, and will represent Virginia again in the regional competition. In addition, her Horse Bowl team took second place in the 2010 state competition.

Growing up on a Gloucester County ranch surrounded by assorted livestock has given Brown a knowledge of horses and other animals that is practical as well as theoretical. She and her sister Shelley won the “Senior Rider” titles in the recent 4-H district competition, Alyson in the pleasure-riding class and Shelley in the large pony class. Their mother, Robin, describes herself as “a stay-at-home mom with a horse habit,” and the family shares its premises with seven horses including Brown’s own mount (Miss Oreo), a variety of pet dogs and cats, and Boston terriers that they breed for sale. Wild birds patronize several feeders, and an adopted turkey comes when called.

Although Brown loves being surrounded by nature and the menagerie of animals, she admits to a fascination with technology as well, and considers herself something of a “computer geek.” She also finds time to volunteer at her church, Newington Baptist in Gloucester, where she works with the children in Bible school and other programs.

Photo: RCC student Alyson Brown (shown with her horse, Miss Oreo) has won several state and national awards in 4-H public speaking competitions.

One Response to “RCC helps young speaker groom her performance”

  1. Risha Hardy says:

    This is a wonderful story! Especially for the alumni who enjoyed RCC. Please keep up the colorful insightful website! Keep up the beautiful work Alyson.
    Risha Hardy

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