Sheila Umbaji Futch, ACG, ALB, is a former substitute teacher and a U.S Air Force veteran who now is retired from her job with the State of California and coordinates Toastmasters Youth Leadership programs. Lea Michelle Cash, CC, CL, is a reporter, author and founder and CEO of The Brightest Star Inc., an award-winning volunteer organization that serves the needs of children and teens in foster care. Cash and Futch are members of the Vernon Bragg Jr. Rialto Toastmasters club in Rialto, California.
Lea, when did you meet your mentor?
I met Sheila when I first joined Toastmasters in the ’90s. We both loved the experience, but did not stay. Sheila and I remained friends, and years later she rejoined the club and encouraged me to return.
What is it like to be mentored?
Sheila has a mentoring spirit and is passionate about Toastmasters. She inspires me. She served two terms as club president and took on area and district leadership roles. She grew to become a role model for me, and for others.
What benefits do you see in Toastmasters?
It’s how a Toastmaster communicates, as compared to non- Toastmasters. I did not like speaking before a group, and I still do not like it, but I thoroughly enjoy the benefits when I do. Actor John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death—and saddling up anyways.” That is kind of what I do in my club. I speak before students and groups regularly, and my fear has subsided remarkably.
What is the best advice Sheila has given you?
To enjoy the journey of learning to communicate, speak with confidence and meet goals and objectives. I sometimes listen and watch her as she mentors others—she expresses the joy of a Toastmaster in her every word as she helps others. I am grateful for everything she has done for me.
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Mary Nesfield is associate editor for Toastmaster magazine. Reach her at email@example.com.