(Gary Fan 6/15/92 - 1 0/19/09. Photo “borrowed” from some kid on Facebook – sorry about that, but really, it’s a perfect photo. Taken on tacky day, hence the outfit, a few days before Gary’s accident.)
Southside High School (Greenville, SC) students, teachers and parents are mourning a wonderful young man. Please remember his family and friends in your prayers. Here’s a terrific story about the team of which Gary was, and my daughter is, a part.
(This story is no longer online but originally appeared at greenvilleonline.com.)
Southside High's forensic team uniquely unified
Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 - 2:00 am
By Katherine Dyer
City People Writer
Spend an hour with core members of the Southside High School Forensics team, and ready or not, aware of it or not, you'll inevitably encounter the source of the team's strength.
It's the reason behind the confidence they have as individuals and competitors, the reason they say other teams are drawn to them during down-time at tournaments, and the reason they endured weather “hot enough to boil Oodles of Noodles” in un-airconditioned Birmingham, Ala., classrooms for a weekend in June.
It's also the reason for their incessant, tag-team banter and how they know each others' favorite songs and whose dance moves would – could – should? – be retooled as torture techniques.
Simply stated, they're a family.
“I mean,” Andre Sullivan, a rising senior, tosses out slyly, “I think you can tell we all look alike.”
Ultimately, though, this bond is also the reason for the large silver trophy sitting triumphantly on the focal fold-out table between them. (It should be noted here that the trophy was also safety-buckled in the front seat of Coach Erickson Bynum's car en route to the meeting.)
By no means the team's first honor, this National School of Excellence Award from the 2009 National Speech and Debate Tournament in Birmingham distinguishes Southside as one of only 25 of the 900 participating teams nationwide to demonstrate specific, high levels of performance at the competition.
It's no surprise. This year, the team also claimed the Overall State Championship award for the first time in five years, defeating schools from A-AAAA classifications, and was named the 2009 National Forensic League S.C. District Sweepstakes Champions at the district tournament for the second year in a row.
“This may honestly be the most talented group of people not only in the Southeast, but also across the nation,” admits 2009-grad Rickey Pulley of his teammates.
“We're kind of like the TV show ‘Diff'rent Strokes,” he offers. “We've got people from every different nationality, but we all found a common ground.”
That ground is speaking as a form of art.
And while they each have unique specialties, Coach Erickson Bynum, himself a Southside Forensics team alumnus, fosters the team's unique unity by encouraging the students to participate in events outside their realms of talent. He also provides them a high level of self-governance, which promotes mentoring amongst teammates.
“I love the fact that they're constantly trying to make themselves better,” Bynum says.
“I think that what makes our team so successful,” explains Blair Brewer, a rising sophomore specializing in public forum debate, “is the fact that we have different people from different backgrounds and different walks of life, and that Mr. Bynum is able to unite us all. It creates this sort of unity of ideas.”
“Other teams act as corporations,” reveals 2009-grad Jared Marr, “whereas with us, it's family and self-betterment first.”
“And if we win a trophy along the way,” he adds (they have a whole display case full), “that's great, that's wonderful. But the primary thing is to encourage each other, which usually results in us doing better anyway.”