NEW YORK – Indian American Viraj Patel was named an American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament All-American, being the first from South Dakota State University.
“I was petrified. I was terrible. I hadn’t done an impromptu or extemporaneous speech before; I was a hot mess,” Patel said of that first competition back when he was a freshman in college, according to SDSU Collegian.
“Ironically, I had those same feelings when I got the all-American honor. It was, ‘Oh my God, what did I get myself into?’ I cried but knew this was something I’d chosen to do and now I have to be good at it,” he added.
When Patel came to the U.S. from Mumbai, India to attend South Dakota State, he was interested in pursuing a career in film studies but he then came across the Jackrabbits Forensics program and decided to become a speech communication major and go on to attend graduate school in the same field.
“Speech taught me to stand up on my own two feet, and defend not only my opinions, but also the opinions of other people who may not be able to defend it well. Through forensics, I found my true passion. If I didn’t stumble upon Jackrabbits Forensics, I would not be able to have my dream of working in U.S. politics,” he stated in a press release.
“Viraj’s honor is reflective of his dedication to excellence in all aspects of his college career. As the first SDSU student to receive this honor, it highlights the growth of the forensics program to rise to renewed heights of national success,” said SDSU coach Andrea Carlile.
Patel serves as a senator of the College of Arts and Sciences where he was named Senator of the Year; he is also involved with the Van D. and Barbara B. Fishback Honors College.
“I am going to be a Jackrabbit for the rest of my life. That is not going to change at all, but being actively involved in campus activities, impacting real change on this campus as a student is what I will miss a lot,” he added.
According to the press release, in order to be named an all-America, individuals are selected based on scholastic achievement, AFA-NIET forensic participation and community service.