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August 5, 2009 > A toast to youth leadership

A toast to youth leadership

By Ritu Jha
Photos By Ritu Jha

Redding resident Jenny Lai felt her mission was "accomplished" at the 2009 Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program Graduation, hosted on July 25 by the Citizens for Better Community.

Lai has to travel four hours every Saturday to Fremont, which she hated in the beginning. "I have to wake-up at three o'clock in the morning to attend the class," said Lai to the gathered audience.

The fear of speaking in front of people was gone; she was not nervous. Lai said she thought she could not do it; but after the completion of her first year, she is thinking of enrolling again in next year's program.

The Toastmasters Youth Leadership program is part of Toastmasters International, which is organized locally by Citizens for Better Community. The classes are held once a year, during the summer, for five weeks. The program started 12 years ago in the Tri-Cities area and has been growing since that time.

"I see this program is growing in our area because lots of parents are becoming aware about it," said Irene Yung, the Youth Master program director.

"The Program is for high school students", Yung said. "When the youth leadership program started, there were only two classes and now we have four classes with 60 students enrolled."

There are four coaches and four assistant coaches in addition to guest speakers who are invited to work with the students. "They coach them in public speaking, leadership, communication, and how to be organized; when to say yes and when to say no," says Yung.

She added that the leadership program is good for students, teaching them how to do projects and is good practice for their future interviews.

"It helped me to speak well," said Kevin Cheng, who won the Best Speaker award at the graduation ceremony. He mentioned that the class helped him take a big load off his shoulders because he learned to speak in public with ease.

Fourteen-year-old Katrina Ng, a student at American High School, received an award for the Best Table Topics. She said, "At first I thought it would be boring. But teachers and their patience made me like the class."

"My speech improved a lot and I started to like it. When I started winning the ribbons I got excited," added Ng.

Rachel Chang, 17, a student at Mission San Jose High School who received the award for the Best Evaluator said, "The class was very effective and the coaches were all professional. They taught different techniques to engage the audience."

"I am not as nervous to go and talk in front of people as I was five weeks ago," said Chang.

"She is more confident than before. Earlier she was shy; now she is not," said Chang's mother, Stella Chang.

Marcia Wang, the mother of 16-year-old Lawrence Wang, said, "My son did not like public speaking, but it is surprising that now he is learning."

"I am an honest and open guy," said Lawrence Wang. He added, "I am not a serious speaker but I have opened up the possibilities."

Head coach Albert Mo, said, "We provide very intensive three hour classes. The program focuses on speech, body language, voice and words. We really let the students have all the opportunities to speak to maximize their leadership skills."

Another coach, former Fremont Vice Mayor Steve Cho, experienced working with the students for the first time. "While working with these young people, I have learned things that I can apply to the future class."

Cho said that if he gets involved with the program again next year, he will establish a lesson plan from day one. He explained that the class is not only about leadership. "I want them to feel comfortable and overcome their fear of standing up and making a presentation."

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