BJU to host more than 700 students during annual festival

BJU will welcome hundreds of high school students from the local Greenville area as well as many states on Monday, Nov. 4, as they come to participate in the annual High School Festival. The high school students will compete in various scholastic categories, including speech, Bible, music, art and cinema.

Some 715 high school students will participate in this year’s festival, with approximately 675 of them, including sponsors, staying in the residence halls. Approximately one-third of the visitors are from homeschool groups, more than half are Christian school students, and a smaller number will be from public schools.

Welcome Center director Mr. David Orr, who has coordinated the event for the past 16 years, works with his team of Student Ambassadors to manage the logistics of the event, which include coordinating reservations for the visitors about five weeks in advance, organizing room assignments, and leading guests on tours throughout the week. Orr is especially eager to see BJU students have positive impacts on the visiting students. “We want [the visitors] to have the best experience possible,” he said. “Obviously, their experience in the residence halls is in the hands of our students, and how they respond and help our guests.”

Faculty from across the campus are heavily involved in the preparation, judging and oversight of the festival. Many classes, particularly fine arts and communication classes, are canceled on Tuesday as faculty members judge the various events. Dr. Greg Kielmeyer, associate dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication, oversees the communication categories of the festival competitions and directly coordinates faculty preparation. “The High School Festival is a highlight of our semester. It’s all hands on deck,” Kielmeyer said. High school students will participate in a variety of communication categories, including dramatic and narrative literature, oratory, acting, and a broadcast editorial contest judged by the Journalism and Mass Communication faculty.

The preaching events and Bible competitions, under the direction of Mr. Kerry McGonigal of the School of Religion, are the highlight for many of the visiting students and their families. “Our main objective is to help them learn how to present a message from God’s Word that is faithful to the text and to be able to communicate clearly and effectively,” McGonigal said.

Mr. Paul Jantz, faculty member in the Division of Music, has overseen the music competitions of the festival for more than 30 years. He coordinates not only the individual events but also the three public concerts that are presented at the end of the week. “The reason we call it a festival is because it’s more than a competition. This is a much broader event,” Jantz said.

The High School Festival is more than just another fine arts event. It also represents an opportunity for visitors to get to know the people who make BJU unique, as well as to improve their own individual skills through competition. “[This] experience energizes the young people,” Kielmeyer said. “Our goal is that they are able to raise their artistic level to accomplish new achievements.”