Xavier Daniels excelled at sports in high school, is an accomplished musician, studies theatre in hopes of finding work as an actor, and is planning on attending medical school en route to becoming a physician. Now, just weeks after stepping into the arena, the Grossmont College student already is turning heads as a member of the school’s Speech and Debate team.
“I had no idea what it was, but it looked interesting to me, so I figured, why not?” said Daniels, 21. “I believe people shouldn’t be afraid to explore all their options, follow their passion, and see how things work out, and I felt speech and debate could help me not only with acting, but with my oral communication skills.”
So far, so good. In his third competition this fall, Daniels notched a picket fence – or ranked 1st by all judges in the room – during the preliminary rounds of a tournament at Pasadena Community College for his performance during an impromptu speech.
Though he faltered in the final round, he left many competitors in awe.
“Xavier already has become a core member of the advanced team,” said Speech and Debate Team director Roxanne Tuscany, who also teaches small group communication and public speaking at Grossmont College. “He has done this not just by success in winning events, but more by being an active member. He has already performed in a readers theatre for the English Department’s Banned books presentation, he has a dramatic duo selection, a prose selection and impromptu as events for the team. For a first semester team member this is a lot of dedication, and success.”
It’s been quite the journey. Daniels was born and raised in the Los Angeles community of Watts and spent his first 10 years surrounded by gang culture. He moved to Spring Valley to be with his mother when he was 10 and excelled both in the classroom and on the playing field. At Monte Vista High School, Daniels competed at the varsity level in baseball, football, basketball, and track and field. Then he was off to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff – and a dose of reality.
“I didn’t study,” he said. “I didn’t take it seriously. And I didn’t have a support system. It didn’t work out.”
After a disastrous first semester, Daniels earned solid grades in his second. But he thought it best to come home and find himself.
He also found Grossmont College, where he is a pre-med student majoring in theatre.
“My mentality has changed since I came here,” Daniels said. “Instead of putting everything off, I’m like, OK, let’s get this done. Now.”