The Grand Cayman Toastmasters Club graduated 11 young members from its Youth Leadership Program at the George Town Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 21.
Alex Richards, Dejea Lyons, Hannah Lawrence, Taejah-Rae Nixon, Bradley McLaughlin, Carlyah Santo, Diandra Whittaker, Martina Watler, Romilly Miller, Tarec Francis and Thea Foster-Ebanks, aged between 13 and 18, made the grade.
The graduates from Clifton Hunter, John Gray, University College of the Cayman Islands, St. Ignatius, Cayman International, Cayman Prep and High School and Youth Flex attended eight weeks of classes to gain self-confidence while improving their public speaking skills.
The aim of the program is to teach participants to be “better thinkers, listeners and speakers,” said Josette Lawrence, Toastmaster assistant coordinator.
She said the skills learned during the eight-week program can be transferred to the classroom and other aspects of their lives. “Every week, I had the immense pleasure of seeing our young people grow from strength to strength,” she added.
Handing out graduation certificates, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said that true leaders were inspirational and did not blindly maintain the status quo. He personally congratulated each graduate and commended them on following their dreams.
Toastmaster area director Paul Persaud presented awards to Carlyah Santo for “Most Improved” speaker and Hannah Lawrence for “Best Speaker.” He said the awards were especially meaningful, as the young leaders were selected by their peers and the toastmasters through a democratic voting process.
Graduate Bradley McLaughlin, an amateur chef, spoke about his passion for cooking; Hannah Lawrence spoke on the art of self-expression; Martina Watler spoke on the significance of art in life to family and friends, and Carlyah Santo presented an icebreaker speech.
The speeches were evaluated by a panel of fellow Youth Leadership Program participants who gave verbal feedback. Speeches were assessed for content, use of sophisticated vocabulary, structure and coherence of speech. Physical cues, including maintaining eye contact, use of body language and speaking up, were also reviewed.
Toastmaster overall program coordinator Anna Clarke received special mention for work in making the program a success.
“This has been a rewarding experience for me,” she said. “At the first session, I did most of the talking but I promised [the] participants they would be able to do the same by the end of week seven. This was evident by the display of chairmanship and choice of speech topics. Both were well received by their peers and the coordinators,” she said.
Diandra Whittaker gave the vote of thanks, extending appreciation to Kirk Freeport for graduates’ gift certificates and for the work of Toastmasters Merrell McCann, Jodiann Jackson, Kevin Creary and Gerry Robinson.