By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Whether it’s for school, work or ordering food at a restaurant, clear and effective communication is important. The younger a person is when they start using good communication practices, the better he or she will be able to express themselves throughout life.
The Peterson Toastmasters club held an eight-week youth program at the R. P. Lee Youth Center. The program ended with a graduation ceremony April 29. The goal of the program was to impart basic speaking skills to youth.
Skip Bradley, vice president-education for the Peterson Toastmasters and command historian, Headquarters Air Force Space Command, worked with youth center staff to prepare teens for the speaking portion of the Military Youth of the Year competition earlier this year. The tutoring went so well the youth center staff asked Bradley if he and the club could offer a program for younger kids.
Toastmasters offers a youth leadership program, but it is geared toward teenagers, so Bradley said that material was adapted for a younger group. The adaptations proved successful for the 12-15 kids who participated most weeks. Mike Pierson, past president, Peterson Toastmasters and co-chair of the Youth Toastmasters project, and club member Terrence Smith, assisted Bradley with several sessions.
“The evidence of success is that they remembered the rules of public speaking and used them,” Bradley said. “It’s voluntary so the fact they came back is evidence of success, and they improved.”
The sessions involved various activities and games to get the kids talking and using rules of good public speaking, such as making eye contact, speaking clearly, standing up and enunciating words.
“The enthusiasm of the participants is what brought me back. What struck me is that they wanted me to come back,” Bradley said.
All youth had opportunities to give impromptu talks before their peers in each session. They also reviewed public speaking principles each time. Though the age range was pre-teen, the kids found value in the sessions.
“I really liked it,” said Jhane Buckner, 10. “It was really fun playing the games and learning to speak better.”
Lessons learned in the program expand beyond just standing before crowds and benefit the kids in other applications as well, said Nick Moore, Children and Youth Programs assistant at the youth center.
“It’s great. It’s definitely been helping in other things we do,” he said. “When we ask questions or play games they stand up to talk and enunciate… they have confidence in the way they talk now after doing this. There is a definite difference.”
Bradley said he was surprised at the number of the kids who wanted to be part of the program and how much they remembered. Because of the response and initial success, there are plans to organize another set of classes at the center in the fall.
The Peterson Toastmasters meet at the base chapel Tuesdays from 11:35 a.m.-12:35 p.m. The club is open to anyone with regular access to Peterson AFB.