The Youth Leadership Program (YLP) – Case Studies

The Youth Leadership Program (YLP) – Case Studies

The Youth Leadership Program is a workshop consisting of eight one- to two-hour sessions that enable young people under the age of 18 to develop their communication and leadership skills through practical experience. The program is presented during or after school, or on weekends. In the workshop, young people learn valuable skills including:

In the section we have two articles from first-time YLP coordinators and three from more seasoned coordinators. In among them there is one article where a mother joined Toastmasters because of the impact YLP had on her daughter at school presented as a mother daughter interview. These are fascinating stories of working with the young laden with golden nuggets of ideas.

A First for Area H20: Youth Leadership Program at Hertfordshire Secondary School

Elizabeth Jordan DTM (Hertfordshire Speakers) and Liz Burnett (East Herts Speakers)

The first YLP in Area H20 was led by Elizabeth Jordan from Hertfordshire Speakers and Liz Burnett from East Hertfordshire Speakers. It is hoped that following the success of this program, the YLP will become more wide-spread in clubs across Division H.

Over the eight-week period, each student delivered prepared speeches, Table Topics and participated in debates on topics chosen by the students. They enjoyed taking on the familiar roles of Evaluator, Grammarian, Ah-Counter, Joke-master, Toastmaster and Timer and Liz and I were constantly amazed by their enthusiasm and willingness to learn. Their speeches made us laugh, cry and smile.

We believe that three key factors contributed to the success of the program:

  • Staunch support from the Sponsor teacher at the school throughout the program. The sponsoring teacher was known to Liz through her work with the Rotary club which sponsors the ‘Rotary Youth Speaks’ program at Sir John Lawes School. We also benefited from the support of the Division Director, Steve Campion, who attended a YLP session.
  • Thorough preparation and planning before and during the 8-week session. Elizabeth and Liz benefited enormously from the support of experienced YLP leaders including Sam Warner and Brendan Haughton, and from Vicky Lester and Rose Marie Calder. Attendance at online YLP workshops and attending District conference workshops have also been invaluable.
  • Most importantly, having a cadre of young students who were willing to engage enthusiastically with the program and take a lead in the weekly planning and delivery of the sessions.
YLP Class of July 2018, Sir John Lawes School, Harpenden
at the Showcase Event in July

The Sponsoring teacher chose fourteen Y9 students (13 years old) to join the YLP program for varying reasons:

  1. Promising speakers who would benefit easily,
  2. Students with very little experience who would benefit significantly, and
  3. Some with specific needs e.g. a student with a stammer.

It’s a testament to her good judgment and the students’ enthusiasm that 12/14 (86%) remained for the duration of the program which culminated in the final Showcase event in July.

One parent showed her gratitude when she said: “I was amazed to see my son standing up and actually giving a speech. You have done an excellent job with him. Thank You.” In the words of the Sponsoring teacher, Ms Aikman: “Toastmasters was a fantastic opportunity for our students. There was a noticeable difference in both the confidence and presentation skills of the students that took part. In addition, the students had opportunities to clarify and challenge their own thinking in a supportive environment.”

Abbeyfield School, Northampton, Youth Leadership Programme (January – March 2018)

Vicky Lester, Cranfield Speakers Club (sponsoring club)

On Friday 12 January 2018, the YLP started with 19 students taking part, ending with session 8 on Friday 23 March 2018 with 16. This was a new journey, not only for the students at Abbeyfield, but for me with it being the first time being involved with this programme. I had a great mentor who helped me understand the full workings of the programme and support that would be needed to make it a success.

As a summary of the programme, I would say that it was a success, and some of the reasons why are that:

  • those that took part were made aware of Toastmasters as an organisation that can help them develop their communication and leadership skills.
  • they completed the programme knowing the basics of how to organise a good speech, and how to deliver it.
  • they took on different leadership roles and understood chairmanship.
  • they learnt what things to avoid, and that sometimes you DO need to prepare and practice!
  • those that engaged with the programme really improved in their speech structure and delivery during the programme, brilliant to see!

There are learning points that I will pass on and remember for next time, these include:

  • making sure the school does not force any students to participate; they must want to be there as otherwise it can (and did) have an impact on the other students.
  • have a fellow Toastmaster assist you, just to help share the preparation and distinct roles you take on as a coordinator within the meetings. I was the only coordinator with this programme and it was quite a challenge and steep learning curve.
  • be prepared for about half way through to feel like it’s not working, and you want to give up. For me it was that students were not preparing their speeches and doing any preparation for the sessions. However, I’m pleased to say it can turnaround if you 1) keep highlighting the benefits for them and 2) have regular debrief sessions with the Head Teacher (as I did) on the engagement in the room to bring any struggles you’re having to their attention.

And finally, a key thing to remember is that they are 16-18 year olds! They are going to forget to bring their manuals, and they won’t fully appreciate the importance and benefits of the YLP as you do, but, they will have their manuals to keep, and I like to think that the group of students I worked with now know where Toastmasters is when the penny drops and they realise the importance of communicating and leading effectively!

The Youth Leadership Program at Holy Family School for the Deaf

Maggie Owens, Athy Toastmasters Club

Have you ever felt awkward during conversations with colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours and even family members? How would you feel standing up before an audience? Many people feel uncomfortable when they are trying to make a connection during a verbal exchange. So, you can imagine for some Deaf people this awkwardness can be multiplied by ten!

As a fellow Toastmaster and a Teacher of the Deaf I am a great advocate of the Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) on helping our Deaf students to reduce the awkwardness, uncomfortableness, and the stress in communicating to a larger group of people and individuals. The YLP is a programme by Toastmasters that is designed to develop the speaking and leadership skills of young people.

In the past 4 years our school, the Holy Family School for the Deaf had an eight weeks YLP programme with our Transition Year students. Introducing the Youth Leadership Programme into Holy Family School for the Deaf was initially a challenge due to the variety of communication styles of the students. Some of the students communicate through Irish Sign Language (ISL), others with Total Communication and some with Speech only. But promoting language acquisition through effective communication epitomises the teaching styles of our school.

One thing that works very well is to get previous YLP students who had completed the programme to come to talk to the current YLP students and to share their experience. This is an excellent idea, as all the students engaged in a small group discussion about the programme and participated in some impromptu speeches. The collaboration inspired our students and they became very excited about the prospect of starting the Youth Leadership Programme. The meeting also gave our students an insight into the programme before they embarked on it.

I also feel having an experience Toastmaster to come into the school and to help you co-ordinate the YLP is very effective. We are very privileged and honoured to have an experience toastmaster Brendan Haughton who comes to our meeting every week. His input, feedback, and evaluations to all the students have been very valuable.

Observing the students, I witnessed each one of the students overcome their shyness, their habits – such as hands stuck inside pockets while speaking, lack of connection with audience by not using eye contact etc. I saw them creating and presenting very memorable and effective speeches on topics of their own choosing such as “Learning to sail a Boat”, “The day I got my Junior Cert Results” “My love for GAA” and many more. I felt privileged and proud to see the students enhance their eloquence, their interaction and leadership skills through their preferred mode of communication (ISL, Total Communication, Speech) within the friendly environment of the Youth Leadership Programme.

This programme proved to be a HUGE SUCCESS, so much so that the principal of our school Eimear O Rourke introduced it as a full time two period subject for the entire year. This is a fantastic initiative for our students and it gives us more opportunity to enhance all the skills they have acquired in the original 8 weeks programme.

Here are some tips on co-ordinating a successful Youth Leadership Programme.

  1. Invite students from previous years or from another school who have completed the YLP and to share their experience with the students.
  2. Look for a Toastmaster who is willing to come into the school and to help co – ordinate the programme with the students.
  3. Numbers – Our classes are small hence we have two Transition Year classes doing the programme. We have 12 students altogether. This is an ideal number for a great YLP class.
  4. Every month we would assigned the students with a typical toastmaster role for example; Toastmaster; Topic Master; Secretary; Sergeant at Arms, Listener; Grammarian … and so on. This gives all the students an opportunity to experience each role and to improve in their leadership skills. The teacher or Toastmaster would act as General Evaluator at the end of the meeting and give each student feedback on their roles.
  5. We have organised some of our classes is the same format as a Toastmaster meeting and the students love this! They learn how to chair a meeting, they love introducing unfamiliar words etc…
  6. We also organised a mock Table Topic contest – this was great fun! It really encourages the students especially those who tends to give short answers to extend their speeches just a bit longer.
  7. Have a Gavel and a mock president chain – this helps to make the YLP class more official and interesting.
  8. Have Fun! Be creative with your classes and plan the themes around the current seasons or topical subjects at that time.
  9. Look at some famous great speeches for example Martin Luther King “I have a dream……” and encourage a class discussion on why this speech is powerful.
  10. Use that famous line for students to create their own speeches. “I have a dream….”
  11. Invite a professional public speaker to come into your YLP to talk to your class. We have invited John Lonergan former governor from Mountjoy prison to come into our school to talk to the students in January. We are looking forward to hearing him share his experiences.
  12. Have a graduation ceremony at the end and invite their parents and all their teachers so that the students can showcase their newfound communication and leadership skills. Last year we had 8 students and all those students spoke for one full minute on all the brilliant programmes and opportunities they had in Transition year, for example;
  • Transition Year
  • School Trip
  • Young Social Innovator
  • Formula One
  • Challenge Cup
  • Get up and Go Mini Company
  • Gaisce Awards
  • School Shop

The students totally shone as they eloquently spoke/sign on their topic for one minute each.

I believe that all schools should try the Youth Leadership Programme. It gives the students a very valuable speaking/signing experience that will set them for life. One student shared this quote in the YLP class “If you can speak/sign, you can influence, if you can influence, you can change lives”. You never know maybe one day, one of the students will become an inspirational professional keynote speaker! – One thing for sure is that all are primed for success!

“Toastmasters changed my life.”

Debby Looney, Killarney Toastmasters

“Toastmasters changed my life.” How many of us have said that since joining? I certainly have, more than once. I also add, “if only that change had happened sooner…”, like twenty-odd years ago, when it would really have made a difference. And there you have my motivation for running the Youth Leadership Program. The positive impact this program has on teens is obvious to all who are in contact with them. Teachers are astounded by the difference it makes, especially when it comes to negotiations! Over the past few years I, along with fellow Toastmasters, have gone to several schools in our area, to the Transition Year class, which is the class after the Junior Cert, generally 15-16 year olds. This is a momentous year to catch them, especially as schools are often stuck for activities, and money. As the YLP is sponsored by the local Toastmaster club, it is free to the school, and as it is ideally run over eight two-hour sessions, it takes up quite a chunk of time!

Some tips: if the class is large, consider group speech writing and presenting rather than individual icebreakers. Incorporate some role playing, or one act plays, to improve body language, and to help kids to relax. Use emojis or random emotional words during topics to increase vocal variety, i.e. One person gives a topic while another chooses a random emotion to accompany it – so a topic such as ‘how was the summer holidays’ may need to be answered in a tearful voice…Impress upon all of them the importance of public speaking, e.g., family occasions, job interviews, giving presentations in college. Impress this upon adults such as teachers or sports coaches you may be talking to also.

The drawback is that it will take place during school hours, and so finding volunteers can be challenging. However, it is worth the effort, especially when you are stopped by a mum in a supermarket who thanks you for the difference you have made…

Leading on from this, I have given talks to local women’s, farmer’s, and sport’s groups, as I believe reaching out to the public is the best way to share what Toastmasters is about. All it takes is a phone call to a club President or Secretary, usually they welcome any kind of ‘entertainment’! I think most people recognise the importance of self-confidence, the ability to speak up for yourself, and the talent of selling yourself, which is what Ralph Smedley had in mind originally, isn’t it? I believe that with the economic collapse, and the subsequent jostling for jobs, the importance of doing a good interview was on everyone’s mind, especially the mothers of young people. However, Toastmasters can be such a positive and encouraging place, that self-esteem is also built. This is what I always explain to people, it’s personal growth on so many fronts.

Ladies from the kilcummin ICA

Does reaching out in a personal way help the club? I believe so. It may not have a direct impact – if it did, our club would be overrun with middle aged ladies! – but I do believe that it has a trickledown effect. I have certainly spoken to members who heard about us from a neighbour and so on. It’s all about familiarising people with the name, or the brand, of Toastmasters. Hearing someone speak about it leads to internet and Facebook searches, I have definitely always seen a spike in our Facebook ‘likes’ after a talk.

Selling Toastmasters, which is really what it is, is not for everyone. However, as I wrote at the start, Toastmasters has changed my life, and I firmly believe that it can do so for many people. If you have someone in your club who is outgoing and has the energy and time on their hands to go out there, support them! Remember – nobody is 100% altruistic, we all like a bit of recognition now and then.

I joined TOASTMASTERS because…

Isweri Pillay Clonmel Toastmasters

I joined TOASTMASTERS because my daughter, Lauren, participated in a YLP as part of her Transition Year at school. Denis Corcoran, a Clonmel Toastmaster for over 30 years, delivered her programme. Denis is a fantastic coach. In fact, he sat beside me and talked me through my first visits, as a guest, to Clonmel Toastmasters club. Now my club!

Lauren Igoe is 18 years old and at University in Cork now, in her first year. She put herself forward as Class Rep. YLP is partly responsible for that confidence to lead. I emailed her and asked her to answer a few questions about her experience.

Where did it take place?

It took place in Loreto secondary school in Clonmel, in one of the classrooms.

When did it take place?

During my fourth year in school. 2015/2016

How many sessions were there?

I’m not sure how many sessions there were. But I think maybe 10 weeks. 1 per week, I think on a Friday

How many took part?

The entire year did it, but we were split up into 3 groups by class and only did it for one term.

Was it compulsory?

Yes, it was compulsory.

What worked well in the programme?

Our class was so close already, so it was a safe space to give speeches and debate. That encouraged people to get out of their comfort zone.

What did you not like?

I thought the roles were distributed a little unevenly. (I asked her to explain this. She meant that if someone didn’t want to do a ‘hard’ role like a speech, they could choose to be an ah counter or something. This meant the rest of the group had to pick up the slack and take on ‘harder’ roles.)

What did you personally enjoy and why? Did you learn anything from doing it?

I really enjoyed giving speeches and the table topics. I learned how to give positive feedback and I became more confident at giving speeches.

Do you think other people wished they had joined the program once they understood what it was about?

Well we weren’t given a choice to do it or not. So, no.

If given a choice would you do it again?

Yes, because it improved my presentation skills and confidence in giving speeches in front of other people. It gave me confidence. The girls who didn’t give speeches and stuck to roles like the ah-counter didn’t get anything out of it. They stayed nervous when speaking in public right up to 6th year at school.

Outreach Programmes – Prepare to be Flexible

John Cox, Program Quality Director

Roma and I have run several Youth Leadership programmes and aspects of the Speechcraft programme for the last six years – our biggest learning has been that we must be flexible.

There has been no “one-size fits all.”

It all started when a local Rotary Club, who run their Youth Speaks Contest, contacted our club to provide some coaching to youngsters from an Independent Girls school. Four of us from our club went along for a couple of hours and low and behold, a few weeks later, several of the girls did exceptionally well in the contest.

So well in fact that their teacher invited us along to do some more coaching. The school was also entering the English-Speaking Union and Catenian Association Contests. Our first Youth Leadership Programme was born.

Trying to run a conventional programme when we had 24 girls aged from 11 to 18 for one hour a week was a challenge – particularly when their main goal was to win contests.

With the support of two other members we initially launched the programme in 2013. We had to tailor the programme to fill the one-hour lunchtime slots and to fit in with the number of weeks when students were available. On some days we split the group with the assistance of the 2 other Toastmasters as assistant co-ordinators.

The first programme was so successful that we have repeated it for six years. The programme has been modified and fine-tuned but essentially it follows the same YLP principles of prepared and impromptu speeches, evaluations, and educational sessions.

Some girls have continued to join the programme year after year resulting in many contest wins. Every Head Girl has also been a YLP attendee. Parents have also been impressed at the way in which their children have developed.

We have also supported many of the students with interviewing skills and preparing them. for University interviews.

Moat Community College in Leicester – it shows the diversity of students that the programme supports and the boys who were camera shy!

We recently ran another successful Youth Leadership programme for a local Community College whose 20 + students on the programme were predominantly from an Asian background. Again, we had to modify the content and timings to fit in with the one-hour sessions and the school curriculum.

Both programmes culminated with the students presenting their new-found skills to their families and teachers.

Other spinoffs have included some of our club members acting as judges for the Young Farmers Public Speaking Competition.

Applying the same principle of flexibility has allowed us to run variations of the Speechcraft programme. [Speechcraft is covered in more depth in the next print edition of the District 71 Newsletter or available online now]

Universities run a worldwide programme called Enactus where students take entrepreneurial action for others to create a better world.

Through this programme, Nottingham University has set up several mini businesses over the years including supporting ex-offenders and under-privileged youngsters.

Using the principles and practices of the Speechcraft Programme we have been able to integrate with their programmes and help their delegates to find their voices, increase their confidence to tell their stories effectively to an audience.

The ex-offenders wanted the confidence and skills to go into schools to talk to the children about the perils of falling into crime – drug taking, gangs and prostitution.

The other youngsters were to present to senior members of their housing association regarding the challenges of growing up on their estates, and their future community needs.

Raising our profile in the community has certainly paid off, gaining us several new members and University student members. We also took part in Nottingham’s Festival of Words where we ran a Table Topics session at Nottingham’s Speakers’ Corner.

There is no doubt that these outreach programmes achieve powerful outcomes for participants, gained us some new members and have certainly raised our profile in the community.

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