Drawing on 14 years of Young Caymanian Leadership Award recipients and finalists, Cayman’s first public speaking organisation was launched during a reception at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Tuesday.
Speaking at the reception, YCLA Director Jackie Hanson reflected back on why the Young Caymanian Leadership Award was established in the first place, citing the desire to address increasing drug use by teenagers.
“We began to seek ways to influence our kids with positive messages and so we took a look at who was actually having the greatest impact on their lives,” she said. “It wasn’t their parents or grandparents, but celebrities … these celebrity types celebrated life in a style that … could lead our kids in the wrong direction.”
The founders of YCLA decided to create celebrities from the best Cayman had to offer, people who “walk the walk and talk the talk of the kinds of young people who would one day want to lead our community and perhaps our country”, Mrs. Hanson said.
Since YCLA’s establishment, the annual recipient has undertaken a heavy speaking schedule, including speaking to students at most of Cayman’s schools. However, Mrs. Hanson said there was now a need for more than one speaker because of the increasing societal ills affecting the Cayman Islands.
“We began to feel as though we were losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our youth and began to consider how we could possibly fill this need,” she said. “The natural response was to ramp up our efforts by strengthening our message and amplifying our voices.”
After reaching out and getting volunteers from past YCLA recipients and finalists to join the Speakers Bureau, advanced speaking training sessions were held to help develop and strengthen their messages, Mrs. Hanson said.
“Under the banner of exceptional leadership … our alumni will work to restore the values of old; the Christian principles and values of our forefathers that laid the foundation of life in these island, traits that appear to be fading all too quickly.”
Cabinet Minister Mark Scotland, whose wife Cindy was a past YCLA recipient, also spoke at the reception and said there was no doubt that the Cayman Islands needed an initiative like the speakers bureau.
“What is needed in our country today is more role models for our people, particularly for our children,” he said. “One thing I’d encourage is for the young leaders to reach out to the dark corners of our country … to reach out to our youngsters who need it more.”
Others speaking at the reception included Pastor Randy Van Kanel, who said that people respond to spoken messages from the heart of the kind the YCLA speakers will present.
“These young speakers have a ministry of words and words have impact,” he said.
The YCLA Foundation’s Melissa Wolfe spoke about how she has accompanied the YCLA recipients on their many speaking engagements over the years and how engaged the student audiences – from primary school to high school students – have been.
“What we have found is there is a need in the community [for more speaking engagement],” she said. “But you can’t do that with only one person; you can only do it with a team. That’s why we formed the speakers bureau.”
YCLA founding board member Bobby Bodden then asked those in attendance to support the Speakers Bureau initiative with donations, and many of those pledged support. Two people, Rod Hanson and YCLA Chairman Roy McTaggart, committed $10,000 each to the project.
It is hoped the initial 20-week cycle of speaking engagements will start by February 2013.