Imagine a girl who shuffled her feet every time she stood in front of a crowd and stared at the floor as she presented to a room. That was me a few years ago, when I was just entering my teenage years. I struggled to confidently speak to a room full of people, and when I did, it would look like I was ready to cry—or so I’ve been told!
But Toastmasters has definitely changed my life for the better.
My initial exposure to the organization came when I was in the fifth grade. My dad had recently joined the Kennesaw North Metro Toastmasters club near Atlanta, Georgia, in hopes of improving his presentation skills. He asked me to tag along for a meeting since I was so curious about where he went every weekend.
It didn’t take me long at my dad’s club meeting to realize I was the only person under the age of 30, and when I asked him where all the kids were, he said, “This club is only for adults, it’s not for kids.” “But why not?” I quickly asked.
That question prompted the beginning of my journey with Toastmasters youth programs in the Atlanta area. It led to my earning awards in many speech contests as a member of a youth Gavel Club, which was supervised by Victoria Noethling, DTM, a member of three Toastmasters clubs in the Atlanta area. It led to my election as the Gavel Club’s Vice President Education (VPE). It eventually led to me assisting Ms. Noethling in a YLP at my high school so my fellow students could benefit from Toastmasters practice.
Toastmasters has taught me invaluable life lessons that have shaped who I am as a person. Through these youth programs, I learned the importance of perseverance, planning, and confidence.
The skills I developed in Toastmasters have also impacted my experience in other organizations. I have become a more confident presenter in the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), a youth organization centered around presentation and marketing skills. I have excelled in various public speaking contests, winning multiple awards at the regional levels of the National Optimist Club Oratorical Competition (Optimist International is a service organization), and the National High School Mock Trial Competition.
In mock trial, which I have competed in for three years, students split into plaintiff and defendant teams and prepare for months to argue a case in a real courtroom. As a competitive attorney in mock trial, I have been able to present concise and powerful legal arguments. I couldn’t have succeeded in this without my Toastmasters experience.
As VPE of my Gavel Club, I have also greatly improved my organizational skills. Planning meetings and coordinating speakers have given me organizational and communication abilities that will help me in many other areas.
I have been able to engrave the basic Toastmasters ideals of communication, leadership, and confidence through public speaking into my everyday life. I can proudly say that I am no longer the shy girl shuffling her feet in the corner of the room. Instead, I’m the girl in the center of a crowd speaking her voice with confidence.
Rachita Iyer is a high school senior and lives with her family in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.