Author: Judy Barlow, Citizen Journalist
Ten girls from the Peninsula have been meeting weekly in a joint project hosted by the Beacon Community Youth Employment Program (YEP) and sponsored by the Toastmasters International Youth Leadership Program (YLP). Their goal: to develop communication and leadership skills.
Sarah Cameron, the YEP Coordinator, first began looking into YLP last October. The more she learned about the program, the more potential she saw for teens at YEP. “This sounds like a really great program. I believe our students would really benefit from being a part of it. It is an added bonus that the course is free for youth,” Sarah said.
On January 15 the first weekly 2 hour meeting began, offering teens a chance to practise speaking in public with confidence and assurance. Adult coordinators, experienced Toastmasters, are on hand to teach workshops on public speaking and offer the girls direction. The teens run all aspects of the meeting, from Chair to Toastmaster (MC), to delivering prepared speeches and impromptu speaking.
Program Coordinator, Georgia Stevenson, squeezes her commitment into a hectic schedule as a health care practitioner. When asked why she does it, Georgia explained, “When they were looking for volunteers, I was looking to give back to the community. Working with teens sounded like fun. In my work I’m around seniors a lot. I was right. It is fun. I’ve already learned so much myself from being around the girls.”
The girls are a mixed group, with a wide variety of interests. Middle school student Mariana is a talented jewellery designer. She announces the morning bulletins at her school, and proudly informed the group that she will be the MC at an upcoming assembly.
At age 11, little sister Lorena is the youngest member of the group. She takes on some of the toughest challenges in her quest to learn how to get to the point quickly.
14 year old Kai is an old hand at YLP, a veteran from last year’s group at the Bruce Hutchison Library. “I really like this group. The girls are a lot of fun. I hope we keep in touch after the program. I think we could be great friends,” said Kai. She celebrated her 15th birthday with the other girls at the meeting on January 29th, complete with cake. She’s not alone in noticing what a great group they are.
14 year old Sara is having a lot of fun in the program and was the first to suggest that maybe they could get to know each other over hot chocolate after the meetings.
Grade 11 student Stephanie enrolled because she wanted to learn leadership skills and how to speak in front of an audience without any nervous habits. She thinks it’s fantastic that every girl signed herself up without any parents making them do it. “I am loving the class. Everyone is so nice and getting to learn different things while having fun is amazing (even better than school). Being a member of the Youth Employment Program is an amazing experience. It allows you to … try different things you might not otherwise get a chance at” said Stephanie.
If you or someone you know is between the ages of 11 and 17, it’s not too late to join. Upcoming sessions include strengthening skills in debate, Improv, interviews, and PowerPoint. Contact Sarah Cameron at YEP. She can get you started right away.
The program is free. Sessions run from 1:00 – 3:00 PM every Saturday until March 5th at the Shoal Centre in Sidney. You can find out more about the Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program at www.toastmasters.org or contact local Toastmaster Fred Jones, the YLP Program Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Sarah Cameron says, “The Beacon Community Services Youth Employment Program provides youth, ages 14-18 from School District #63, with employment, volunteer and training opportunities.”
The program supports youth as they learn new skills that will help them succeed in a work environment. Some of the benefits of joining the Youth Employment Program include: complete 30 hours of volunteer work for graduation, meet new friends, attend community events, gain new skills, build or improve your resume, earn references and have access to courses for free or at a reduced cost.
Youth are encouraged to join the program to get involved in their community and to have access to some great opportunities. Go to the Beacon Community Services website at www.beaconcs.ca, or contact the YEP office at 250-656-5537 ext. 118 for more information on YLP and other upcoming opportunities.”