High achieving orator overcomes obstacles to educational goals

Byline: Jhanelle Rivera, Editor in Chief


“The edge of my affliction; heart tugging in hand, but did not fall victim” are words from “Before I Die I Will Tell God Everything,” a poem about the window into Haywood Hogan past and how he moved forward. When Hogan performed this verse in classroom 3481, a blanket of silence covered the audience like a foggy sky approaching a harbor at the American Readers Theater Championship this May.

The 42 year old performed a solo at the final competition of the spring semester that took place on the third  at Mt. San Antonio College. Hogan wore his trademark paperboy hat to match his black and red attire. His loss was unexpected because the speech major has won more than 20 awards. Yet, the veteran returned empty handed to his friends’ living room, a place he calls home.

“It [speech] saved my life, and changed my life. When I am down on my luck I turn to speech. When I feel like I can’t handle some of the things life has handed me, I turn to speech. When I am hungry and tired and sick of being sick and tired, I turn to speech,” said Hogan. “It’s an amazing community of people, coaches, competitors, and it is truly life changing if you allow it to share your time and space.”

A few of his accomplishments in forensics are: Bronze for 2014 national championships for POI (program of oral interpretation), First Place Open Poetry for 2013 at the San Diego State Invitational, and Gold (low-cume) for CCCFA Open Poetry. Hogan use to have a special room where all plaques, trophies, and plates were displayed. About a month after 2013 speech nationals he and his fiancé separated, leaving him homeless.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year.

Hogan served eight years in the Army. He worked in the field of artillery and military intelligence until 1999, though he never saw frontline action.

This is not the first time he has faced being homeless; seven years ago he was sleeping in different shelters every night. After serving, Hogan found a position with a foreclosure agency. Unfortunately, he got laid off. Now while the vet couch surfs, he travels light with a black book containing his speeches, notebook for school, and a cell phone.

“I dedicated my life to school and speech and knew there was a much bigger picture involved,” said Hogan. “A house and a solid place to live is great but it can all be taken away, my education is forever and no one can ever take that away from me.”

The first five minutes of his poem he spoke about burying his grandmother just moments after fulfilling her promise to take him on his first airplane ride at the age of 13. When asked about her personality, it hurt too much to describe her, but without a doubt he expressed she was a powerful woman who kept her word.

Hogan was in the clouds once again when winners of International Forensic Association tournament flew him to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Proudly, the future “Big Red” sent a text message confirming he had landed in layover as he waited for his ride to take him toWestern Kentucky University where he will be receiving a full academic scholarship for fall 2014. Without a doubt, he will be joining the speech and debate team. Unfortunately, housing is not included but Hogan is determined to find a scholarship to cover all costs.

The day before the last competition, Hogan and his teammates practiced behind the speech and debate office near the vintage coffee house on campus. Their close relationship revealed itself within a couple of minutes during rehearsal; from Hogan teasing team member Dominique Bautista about not perfecting a circle position, to giving relationship advice to fellow debater  Antoinette Alles.

It was shocking and breaking news when they found out that Hogan was homeless. They all praised him for persevering through his struggles, which only made him stronger.

“We definitely admire his success, especially in speech. He’s improved a lot since last year,” said Alles. “He has a lot of gusto.”

Valley College’s speech coach and professor Duane Smith’s common phrase is “success is five percent ability and 95 percent ability to follow instruction.” Smith is confident that Hogan will achieve all of his personal goals.

“This is the first time since I have been here at Valley College that I have written to the top four universities in the nation for a student,” said Smith. “I trust him, knowing he will not party and represent himself like an adult. He will go there and get things good.”

Five schools were interested In Hogan including Bradley University, George Mason, and Eastern Michigan.


Through it all, Hogan never victimized himself; his living situation never reflected his abilities. People can tell from his passionate personality that he will always keep climbing.

“My dreams were to be the best person I can be and successful in my own eyes,” said Hogan.

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