Hannah St. Bright

Finding her voice

Toastmasters class helps kids increase communication skills

Caelen St. Bright has seen a change in her daughter.

Her 10-year-old’s confidence and comfort speaking in public is growing day-by-day. While Hannah wasn’t a shy child, her increased confidence since starting a Junior Toastmasters program, has already paid dividends.

“As a parent watching from the sidelines, it is incredible to see,” St. Bright, an Oak Bay resident said. “At the beginning none of the children volunteered for anything and now we don’t have enough time in the meetings to do all the things they want to do.”

For a month now Hannah, a home-schooled Grade 5 student has been taking the Youth Leadership Program working on communication skills and leadership exercises from the longtime program known for mentorship in public speaking, speech delivery and interaction with the public. Under the tutelage of 10-year Toastmasters veteran John Sherber, the improvements haven’t gone unnoticed.

“Some of them, when they walk in the door, need their mother,” Sherber said. “When they walk in the door two to three meetings in, they are standing up and running the meeting.”

The one-and-a-half hour Saturday meetings at the Oak Bay Library started in March and continue on through May 3. Sherber said giving youth the confidence to have a voice is an important step on the road to a brighter future for them. The organization, which now boasts more than 13,000 clubs around the world, and more than 40 in Greater Victoria, can also help youth succeed – and Sherber hopes his volunteering to teach the program makes a difference in the children’s lives, just as the mentorship he received growing up helped him.

“There are people who profoundly affected me as a child, whether they spent one minute with me or a teacher that spent a year with me,” Sherber said. “Young people need communication and leaderships skills. (This is) teaching them life skills that will last them a lifetime.”

Hannah said she is grateful for that mentorship and already feels more comfortable in public settings and hopes to use the tools she develops now when she enters the job force.

“I enjoy it. It helps me with my public speaking and makes me more confident,” she said. “It has gotten much easier than the first day when I was quite nervous.”

The programming has also benefitted her siblings, both of whom are also involved and Hannah plans to continue working on the craft moving forward and recommends it for people of all ages.

“I think it would really help if they are nervous or not confident enough in doing stuff,” she said. “I think it would help a lot of other kids with their public speaking, and keep going (up) from there.”

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