By Laura Campos

Editor’s note. Laura Campos is a college student who recently graduated from the National Right to Life Academy, a five week intensive course on the life issues for college student leaders. She wrote the following about her experience in the Academy.

AcademyCollage2013BestreI will readily admit that the one thing of which I was MOST terrified in the weeks leading up to Academy was the prospect of practicum. Practicum is what it sounds like, but scarier. It’s practice. Daily practical application of the concepts and skills that we learn from readings and lectures. After a 1-2 hour study period, we break into groups of three and four. Each group heads to a separate room with a practicum instructor, who grills us about the things we have just learned, in a lobbying, formal debate, conversational, speech, press conference, or media interview format. A camera records as we present the case for or against a topic (e.g., euthanasia, abortion and women’s rights, et al.). We watch the videos and critique each other. Each session lasts one hour; we do this three times daily on normal days.

Even though I’ve done public speaking in 4-H and in college courses in the past, I get nervous now. Really, REALLY NERVOUS. My heart beats really fast, my breathing gets quick, muscles tense up, and all the rest. And then my voice is shaky and cracky. Ewww. Gross. I know this is normal, but I feel as if my nervousness and its effects are abnormal.

The first few rounds of practicum were rough. We had talking points and supporting information to build sound arguments, but it seemed like there was SO MUCH INFORMATION that it was difficult to articulate everything (or anything at all). It was excruciating to watch the videos over again in front of my classmates and instructors- not to mention listening carefully to critiques. Within the first couple of weeks, I had come to accept the situation, work to formulate better arguments, and attempt to breathe during speeches. I trudged along without seeing too much progress.

And then one day, it all came together.

When we covered Humanity of the Unborn (lots of biology and a touch of philosophy), I GOT IT. Not just the material, but the whole concept of practicum. The words just came. And they made sense.

It’s a beautiful thing when you read all the readings, listen attentively to the entire lecture, ponder the concepts, and study the arguments thoroughly before attempting practicum. It’s the ideal, but it doesn’t happen every time, and even when it does, the result is still sometimes less than ideal. Every now and then it still sucks, but even with the bad days, it’s okay. The environment at Academy is the most encouraging and supportive educational setting I’ve been in. Our instructors challenge us, but are never mean- they want us to learn the material and to articulate it well. And classmates- well, we’re all in the same boat, so we have fun with it and pick each other up on less-than-stellar days.

AH! I never thought I’d say this, but I really love practicum.

You can read more of Laura’s blog at