Paige Stearn (third from left in the front row) with members of the state champion Groves High School forensic team
Paige Stearn (third from left in the front row) with members of the state champion Groves High School forensic team

The gift of gab propelled Paige Stearn, 17, of Beverly Hills and 40 teammates on the Groves High School forensic team to a state championship, the first time the school has held the top title in 24 years. The competition took place at Eastern Michigan University April 28-29. While many people might shake in their shoes at the thought of public speaking, these students thrive on stage and in the spotlight.

“It feels amazing to stand up in front of the judges and to know I have worked so hard all year to do this,” Paige says. “As nerve-racking as it is, it’s more exciting than anything you can imagine.”

Paige, an aspiring actress, competed in the category “storytelling.” In dramatic fashion, she told a story from the book The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy. As the story goes, a dragon librarian named Ms. Lotta Scales scares children away and guards the books so they stay clean. Eventually, a little girl changes the dragon’s mind.

“The thing about Paige is she owns the stage,” says proud mom, Terri Stearn. “What impressed us most was her ability, without any costume change, to become various characters in the story. For instance, when she is playing the dragon, she has her arms spread out flapping like wings of a dragon. When she plays Molly [another character in the story], she uses a child’s voice. These are things that got her into the finals.”

During the statewide competition, students participated in 14 different events ranging from prepared speeches to more impromptu remarks, where limited preparation time is given. They also recited poetry and prose and did dramatic interpretations. All events are timed and performed under strict rules and guidelines. The pressure is intense and Groves students rose to the occasion.

“Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association empowers students to become proficient and ethical communicators, critical thinkers, lifelong learners, and leaders in a democratic society through interscholastic speech, theater and debate activities,” reads a press release from the high school. “We are proud of our history, our heritage and our members.”

In the end, Groves students went home with top honors and quite a story to tell. In addition to the team’s big win, Paige was among students who were awarded individual honors. She came in fourth-place in storytelling. The teen plans to take all she has learned from her time on the forensic team and use it as she participates in Carnegie Mellon’s pre-college summer program starting in July.

Her acting credits to date include parts on episodes of Girls, Orange is the New Black and a few other shows. No surprise, Paige’s future plans involve a lot more time spent in front of big crowds.

“I plan to study musical theater in college,” she says. “I want to work in live theater, where I find the most excitement on stage. It’s live and anything can happen and it usually does. On the stage performing is where I feel most at home.”

Robin Schwartz Contributing Writer