Though he can barely see over the podium, fifth-grader Kyran Daniel knows how to give a good speech.
“I know how to say a speech without saying ‘Um’ or ‘Ahhhhh!’” Daniel said, shouting into the microphone at Downtown Elementary’s Toastmasters graduation. The other students laughed. “Now my speeches are organized. Now I feel comfortable talking with other people and I don’t move from side to side.”
Daniel was one of 66 Downtown Elementary fifth-graders who graduated from the school’s Toastmasters program on Tuesday. The public speaking program — which requires students to give speeches and be evaluated by their peers — was organized with the help of volunteers from the school’s Partner in Education, TSYS.
“This is usually a program for 10th and 11th graders — you wouldn’t think fifth graders would be able to do it,” said TSYS employee VJ Roberts.
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The school has held its own Toastmasters program for four years. All fifth-graders participate for 12 weeks during the fall semester; in January students have the option to continue the program in place of physical education.
Principal Tonya Douglass said about 50 percent of the student usually continue with the program. She said she has seen it help students organize their thoughts, gain confidence and become better writers.
“They feel really good about themselves,” she said.
During Tuesday’s program at the school, two students from each of the fifth-grade classes gave short speeches on a variety of topics and then were evaluated by other students on their presentations.
Stephen Cooper, wearing a Dallas Cowboys shirt, spoke about why he liked football and playing on the Columbus Raiders. “I want to play football to make money and pay my family’s bills,” he said.
Several students spoke about what Toastmasters had taught them.
“It has made us better speakers,” Sydney Koch said.
It has helped me learn how to talk and focus better,” said Jahmilah Erskine.
Ana Daniels said she liked being vice president, because she got to have control of the stopwatch; speeches are usually timed.
“It was very fun because I didn’t have an adult standing over me telling me what to do,” she said. “It was my favorite.”
“Thank you TSYS and thank you Toastmasters for helping us to speak in front of an audience,” Christopher Smith said.