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Whether they are doing their annual presentations to a university seminar class in Davison Hall or speaking to campus organizations, the trail of red shirts will lead right to the Student Speakers Bureau.

“The students’ overall duty is to help their fellow students make wise college decisions,” Robert Burt, coordinator of the Student Speakers Bureau and licensed professional counselor for Counseling Services, said.

Burt opted for a change this year to red from the previous blue T-shirts, a decision he said he’s happy to have made. The red stands out against the barrage of blue Tech T-shirts worn on campus, Burt said.

Caleb Smith, second-year member of the Student Speakers Bureau and a senior marketing major, said it is about the connection from student to student. Smith also said students are better able to make bonds with one another.

Burt said this year also marks the 15th anniversary for the organization, which was founded under the same mission it holds today, of influencing students to make healthy and wise decisions. The blueprint for this 16-person group came in 1990 from a similar peer leadership group at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Burt said.

Burt co-founded the Student Speakers Bureau with Mari Bel McKinney, former director of Counseling Services, and has been coordinator ever since, Burt said. Burt and other members of Counseling Services train the students to present on topics ranging from alcohol abuse to stress management.

“We don’t try to be judgmental,” Burt said. “For instance, we don’t tell people not to drink.”

Burt said he believes the job the students do is invaluable for themselves and for their audiences.

“Some students take the class for their personal growth,” Burt said. “Some take it to become a leader.”

Burt said he also believes in the importance of the students addressing their peers. Burt said the counselors had the task of addressing university seminar classes before it shifted to the Student Speakers Bureau.

“[They’ve] been talking to freshmen for about the last seven years,” Burt said. “And who wants to listen to an old man like me?”

Smith also said there is great importance in students addressing each other. Everyone is already so used to getting technical information from professors and adults, Smith said.

“I think having students present makes a huge difference,” Smith said. “We’re much more able to get through.”

Kelli Gremillion, second year member of Students Speakers Bureau and a family and child studies major, said the presentations are effective coming from one student to another, yet she believes it varies among the students.

“Sometimes looking at the faces of some of them, you wonder if you’re getting across,” Gremillion said. “You have people from different backgrounds and you have to find a way to reach them.”

Gremillion said she would love to reach every student they address. Gremillion and Smith both said they try to be good examples to other students.

“We become role models for freshmen,” Smith said. He also said if someone is not able to live his life as a role model, he does not need to be a student speaker.

As Smith said, a student speaker must have “a heart that’s willing to serve and wants to invest in students.”

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