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January 13, 2012 > Toastmaster Youth Leadership soars!

Toastmaster Youth Leadership soars!

By Miriam G. Mazliach

As part of the Union City Toastmasters' "Youth Leadership Program," fourteen high school students in grades 9 to 11, met for eight weekly/ 2-hour sessions, to hone their communication and public speaking skills. The culmination of their efforts was exhibited during a final competition and "graduation" held on the evening of December 18.

The adult coordinators who volunteered their time to work with the teens, were Jean Luong and Midji Rovetta members of Union City's Toastmasters International, an organization created to encourage the improvement of speaking and leadership skills of its members.

Rovetta, the immediate Past President of the club, explained how the teenagers became involved with their organization. A while back, during an informational Toastmasters "Open House" at the Union City Library, Rovetta was approached by a parent, Venkat Rayapaneni. He inquired if Toastmasters, typically for adults ages 18 and over, would offer a group for teenagers. "I wanted them to teach my daughter oratory skills, to help her overcome shyness," said Rayapaneni.

Through the combined efforts of Toastmaster members and several interested parents, the word spread to reach those teens who were interested in becoming involved and thus the Youth Leadership Program began.

Comprising the group of fourteen teens were eight students from American High School in Fremont, one student from Alsion Montessori Middle/High School and five home- schooled students.

Justin Swartz, one of the homeschooled students, expressed his thoughts on the program, "It went from being something required for the homeschoolers to something I really enjoyed. I looked forward to it on Sunday nights and it was a really nice experience."

To cover the cost of books and supplies for the two-month session, only a minimal contribution of $20 was asked of each participant.

For the final evening of the program, a competitive speech competition was held, divided into two components: the Table Topic Contest and the International Speech Contest.

Prior to commencing, Toastmasters' member Heidi Green, who served as Chief Judge of the event, read the Code of Ethics. Rules and timing guidelines were outlined for each contest. Other judges were asked to mark their tally sheets, confidentially, throughout the competition.

During the Table Topic Contest, students were sequestered and then called up individually in front of the audience, to be given the topic for the speech. After taking a few moments to collect their thoughts, they spoke aloud extemporaneously on the assigned subject, for the 1 - 2 minute time limit. During that time, the other student competitors, who were to be given the same topic, remained in another room until their turn.

The International Speech Contest portion was substantially an original, prepared speech competition. Prior to the evening, students had been asked to select a topic of their own choosing to present and were required to talk on their subject for a period of 4 - 5 minutes in length.

Trophies were awarded to the top three student finishers in each of the evening's two speech competitions:

Table Topic Contest:
1st Place - Deekshita Chigullapally
2nd Place - Tejaswini Cherukuri
3rd Place - Justin Swartz

International Speech Contest:
1st Place - Bonnie Pong
2nd Place - Sriya Bhupathiraju
3rd Place - Faith Rovetta

Medals were also given to each student in appreciation of their participation and for completion of the program:

Katie Buhnerkempe
Ganesh Chendica
Pavani Chendica
Sriranganayaki (Sriya) Bhupathiraju
Phani Rayapaneni
Basole Samanvitha
Justin J. Swartz
Cheyenne M Serafino-Lee
Tejaswini Cherukuri
Brittanie Eddlemon
Bonnie Pong
Faith Rovetta
Meghna Satish
Deekshita Chigullapally

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