Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program

Vaughan Perspectives – January 10, 2008


By Shlomit Kriger

Vaughan youth will soon be learning how to raise a toast to success.

Toastmasters, a non-profit organization aimed at helping people worldwide master public speaking, is once again running its Youth Leadership Program (YLP). This program allows youth to practice and hone their communication and leadership skills.

“Youth in the city need to have more outlets for discovering their own talents and opinions and having a platform in which to do that with confidence,” said Tanya Freedman, chairperson of the YLP for the Toastmasters Division serving Vaughan.

“If there are youth that are shy, if they have ideas but don’t know how to form them or how to express themselves, or if they’re just nervous speaking in front of people, then they will gain many skills in a supportive and fun environment through the program.”

Free program

The YLP is free and open to youth between the ages of 11 and 17. The program begins Jan. 12.

All of the YLP co-ordinators are Toastmasters members and volunteers. Like Freedman, who is an artist, author, and mentor, many members are also entrepreneurs.

While the co-ordinators guide the youth and help facilitate the sessions, the youth run the meetings. The youth will learn how to develop and deliver successful speeches, overcome their fears of speaking with others through such exercises as impromptu speaking, and effectively listen to one another and share opinions through diverse discussions.

In the eighth session, the participants will get a chance to show off what they learned to family and friends in a graduation party.

“It’s very important to develop communication and leadership skills young,” said Kevin Ong, governor for Toastmasters Division D and a self-employed computer consultant. “When I came out of university about five or six years ago, I noticed that most new graduates that come out of postsecondary school need two things to survive in the workforce – technical skills and soft skills.

“A dramatic number of graduates are lacking in soft skills, meaning being able to present oneself, having the confidence to hold a conversation, and making a presentation to a possible employer. Back then, I couldn’t do a presentation if my life depended on it. I wasn’t one of those very outgoing types of people. Technically, I would avoid presentations, and if I had to give a presentation I would read from notes.”

Upcoming speech contest

Freedman said some of the YLP participants will get a chance to also help maintain the Division D Web site, which will allow them to garner additional skills. She also plans to hold a speech contest for the program graduates in June.

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