GVC Students Seek Pathway to Leadership
Garden Valley Collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

By Sandra (Grade 12)

Students who have the desire to speak effectively and confidently in public can increase their chances of success greatly through the Toastmaster Youth Leadership program. Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler, Manitoba, is one of the many schools in North America that offers this leadership program as an extra-curricular activity and it turns out new public speakers every semester.

Every Thursday at noon, a group of twelve to fifteen Senior 2 to Senior 4 (Grade 10 to 12) students meet for Toastmasters in Room N10, under the guidance of Mr.George Klassen, a local business person, and Mr. Ron Friesen, a GVC teacher. One course is offered each semester. At the end of the sixteen-week training period, the participating students get to test their newly acquired communication skills with a bit of friendly competition. They vie for public speaking medals at the semi-annual "Showcase" evening, which is attended by interested students, parents, and community members.

Held weekly, the TM Youth Leadership meetings are mostly run by the students. Constructive criticism is provided by fellow club members and helpful reminders are offered by the teacher and sponsors. Just like adult Toastmasters, the GVC Toastmaster students learn how to do impromptu speeches, give parliamentary reports, and even try their hand at delivering humor. The end result of weeks of practicing and perfecting skills is displayed at the Winter or Spring "Showcase." These special evenings start out with an after-school competition. Each student Toastmaster does a three-to-five-minute speech on a self-chosen topic. Trained judges (usually former club members) score each speech. The competition continues at a community banquet later that evening. The semi-finalists are announced during the proceedings, which also features a model business meeting. The top speakers again deliver their speeches and, judged by adult Toastmasters from the Pembina Valley chapter, the medal winners are chosen.

Why do students voluntarily attend Toastmasters? It sounds a little bit like an extra English class. Is it to develop self-confidence, to improve speaking competence, to overcome shyness, or to have fun. The reasons vary. One student made the analogy that Toastmasters is "like brushing your teeth - at the time, it is not always fun, but it is a good thing to do, and later on you will be glad that you did it. Some students are reluctant to get involved but, once they do, they discover it is more fun than they had expected.

To accommodate student interest in continuing their Toastmaster experience at GVC, an advanced club was chartered several years ago. The GVC Gavel Club is an independent and student-operated Toastmaster chapter. Larry Danielson and Kathy Warkentine are GVC staff who are also active members of the Pembina Valley adult Toastmasters. They serve as both school liaisons and speaking mentors to the Gavel Club. Graduates of the Youth Leadership program and the GVC Gavel Club are highly visible in school leadership positions by their Senior 4 year. Close observers of the clubs note that, for at least several years, the School Valedictorians, Student Council Presidents, Yearbook editors, and ISCF Presidents have been participants in the Toastmaster program. They are students who have developed the confidence and competence to lead in other school activities.

The Toastmasters Youth Leadership program at GVC began nine years ago when Fred Beiber, a local farmer and Pembina Valley Toastmaster, called the school and offered to start a group. All he needed was interested students and a cooperating teacher. Teacher Ron Friesen said "yes" immediately. Mr. Beiber served as a sponsor for many years. When he recently retired and took an extended vacation, another Pembina Valley Toastmaster took his place.

Mr. George Klassen had helped to judge at previous "Showcase" evenings and, one-and-one-half years ago, he was asked if he would like to become the club sponsor. Mr. Klassen took the chance willingly and says he has never regretted it.

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