MARSHALL - For the past seven weeks, nine area youth have been taking part in a Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program. And while they received completion certificates Tuesday afternoon, the participants are taking away so much more, including valuable skills, knowledge and confidence.
"I'm so proud of your accomplishments the last seven weeks," said Jeff Cordes, Youth Leadership Program coordinator and president of the Jim Hand Club, a public speaking club for adults. "I'm sure I'd have been so nervous if I'd have done this at your age. But the ability to communicate effectively will certainly help open doors for you in the future."
While Toastmasters International sponsored the program and designed the curriculum, Cordes was the one who got to see the weekly progress in each participant, all of whom are home-schooled children from the ages of 11 to 17.
"Our program is designed to give youth an opportunity to practice communication and leadership skills in an environment that is structured and gives them the chance to succeed in that endeavor," Cordes said. "I think they've had a really good time these last seven weeks. It's our first time doing this in Marshall, I believe. We're happy to have started it, and we look forward to doing another session, hopefully, in the fall. We're very glad to have had this opportunity."
As president of the Youth Leadership group, 15-year-old Danielle Jibben of Madison got the meeting going Tuesday by asking for the secretary's report, which was then read by her 11-year-old sister Cassandra Jibben. Afterward, the group joined together for table topics using a chain reaction system.
"I'll start with a question, and I'll pick one of you to answer," Cordes said. "Once you've answered the question, you get to ask someone else a question, and we'll go like that."
Cordes asked Carlie Dallenbach of Walnut Grove what she thought the best part of the Memorial Day weekend was. After standing before the group, Dallenbach used what she'd learned to answer the question.
"The best part of the Memorial Day weekend was probably just being with family," she said. "I was at the farm with my sister and brother. My mom and dad were at the lake, so I didn't get to spend much time with them, but just being with my sister and brother was a lot of fun."
After each of the youth and a few of the adults present took a turn, the final three participants gave an individual speech in front of the group. Savannah Boedigheimer, 11, of Marshall began her speech on tae kwon do by demonstrating some moves with pink nun-chucks.
"That is one of the many things I've learned in tae kwon do," Boedigheimer said after receiving applause from the crowd. "A couple of other things we learn in tae kwon do is respect, manners, you achieve so much and most of all, you have fun."
Boedigheimer noted that she had also learned the five tenets of tae kwon do.
"Tae kwon do aims to achieve courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance and indomitable spirit," she said. "We also learned those in Korean, but I won't say them right now."
Boedigheimer explained that the tenets are practiced through a variety of activities, including integrity games like "Red Light, Green Light." She also noted that in addition to meeting new friends, she'd broken at least 50 wooden board and received a few trophies and medals.
Cassandra Jibben then presented her speech on 4-H projects.
"I've been involved in 4-H projects for about four years now, and I've been having a blast," she said. "There are many, many things you can do in 4-H that are fun, and one of them are you show animals and projects at the fair or you could go on tours with your 4-H group. There are so many things that I couldn't even talk about them all in two hours."
For that reason, Jibben chose to narrow her speech to include information about showing animals and projects.
"You can show many animals and projects each year," Jibben said. "You can show horses, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, almost anything you come up with. The projects you can show are needle art, which is basically weaving something, quilting, where you make a quilt, wildlife, where you go out in nature with your 4-H group and track some wildlife, art, where you make a poster or something, and crafts, where you just make something like a rubber-band ball."
While she's shown horses, sheep, ducks and chickens, Jibben admitted that her favorite projects had been quilting and wildlife ones.
Danielle Jibben presented her speech called "Save My Horse." It's one that she'll give again for a 4-H project later on.
"Have you ever thought about what you'd do if there was a natural disaster happening at this very moment?" she said. "Are you prepared? Through this presentation, I plan to teach you about equine disaster preparedness."
The goals and topics that Jibben covered were the types of natural disasters, how to plan, prepare and prevent against things that can happen during a disasters and what to do when evacuating and after the storm has ended.
"There are some common Minnesota disasters that can happen, such as a blizzard, a drought, a flood, a fire, lightning or a tornado," she said. "I've narrowed down the disasters to the ones that could happen in Minnesota because there's little chance of a hurricane happening here."
Jibben continued her speech, noting positive steps before and after potential danger, like assembling emergency kits, scheduling a meeting with neighbors and keeping records and contact numbers handy.
After the final speech, Dallenbach, David Rabaey and J.P Rabaey gave the speakers an evaluation.
"We've had a chance to practice our feedback techniques," Cordes. "We've been evaluating speeches throughout, giving constructive feedback and good, positive encouragement after they've done a task."
Cordes then handed out student certificates.
"I learned a lot about speeches," 17-year-old Chase Dallenbach said after receiving his certificate. "It was a very interesting class to take."
Toastmaster Division Governor Jon Chalmers then congratulated the young leaders.
"I was very impressed by what I saw (Tuesday)," he said. "To be able to express yourself like you did will mean that you'll probably get volunteered to do lots of things in the future. That shows you can be a leader."