Getting steeled up to speak

A group of young people recently
marked an inspiring accomplishment when they celebrated their graduation from
the Grand Cayman Toastmasters Youth Leadership programme.

Teacher Lesma Panton was the
catalyst for bringing the programme to this particular group of Cayman youth.
Its aim is to teach young people to listen, think and speak better with the
hope that they can apply these skills in the classroom and all aspects of their

Thirteen George Hicks students
graduated from the eight-week course and many were able to demonstrate their
newfound skills for friends and family at the ceremony.

Toastmasters President Sharon
Marcussen and fellow Toastmaster Noel Wallace were the group’s trainers, well
versed in public speaking, time management and leadership skills training.

“The kids enjoyed each session. They
did a really good job. We loved working with them and we will really miss
them,” said Mrs. Marcussen.

“Some of them made truly amazing
progress. Their parents have attested they have seen a huge change in the way
they conduct themselves in school and with their friends.”

Mrs. Marcussen noted a programme
like this helps young people develop the confidence to take more charge of their
lives and to speak up when it is warranted.

“Girls for instance often have to
learn to speak up and communicate be it in their social lives, onward through university,”
she said.

At the ceremony, several students
spoke for an allotted two minutes about the programme and what they had gained
from it.

One common theme that emerged was
that many admitted they had been shy to speak in public and were working on
getting over their apprehension.

Others spoke about how they gained
preparation and listening skills, as well as practicing thinking on their feet,
a useful quality in the “table topic” element of Toastmasters gatherings where
speakers are given a surprise topic to discuss.

Others mentioned that it was also
an opportunity to learn how to take critiques and evaluations and apply them

Just like kids everywhere, many also
noted that getting up early on Saturdays was quite a chore at first, but that
it was definitely worth it in the end.

Mrs. Marcussen says that this year
with increasing requests the trainers are trying to fit in as many youth programmes
as possible. Finding enough trainers is becoming difficult, as it’s a big time
commitment and they must be Toastmasters.

“Also, we don’t just do public
speaking but also leadership,” she said.

“In the club for adults you can
learn and practice skills you don’t learn at work. It provides an easy and very
effective way of developing these skills through learning by doing, plus you get
really good feedback during the meetings.”

Mrs. Marcussen said the club hopes
to follow up the success of the Youth Leadership programme with helping to
establish Gavel Clubs, which teach young people how to hold meetings and manage
their time, which kids organise themselves at school.

“We are hoping to do a massive push
for that this year,” she said.

Toastmasters meetings are held at
Woods Furniture, free of charge for guests and there is no obligation to join.

“We would love to have people come
out and see what we do,” said Mrs. Marcussen. For more information visit


The graduates are all more confident public speakers.
Photo: Basia Pioro McGuire