The new Toastmasters International club is only beginning to blossom

The new Toastmasters International club is only beginning to blossom

Sophomore and President of the new Toastmasters club Desiree Tuohy is a leader. 

Last year Desiree began the process of starting a new club: Toastmasters International (TI). TI is a well-known international educational organization. Their mission is to help individuals improve upon their public speaking and leadership skills. 

“One of the things that my mom and I thought of is [the] sophomores with Ted Talks,” Desiree said. “A lot of them are extremely concerned about this, so if they take Toastmasters or join the club, then we can help them improve as a speaker.”

Considering there aren’t any Toastmasters clubs—let alone gavel ones which are designed for young people who are younger than eighteen—in the area, Desiree took it upon herself to start one at FHC. With the help and guidance of her mother and counselor of the club Nancy Tuohy and FHC administrators, she was able to officially get the club off the ground this past November. 

“I am looking forward to having each member individually evolve as a speaker and a leader,” Desiree said. 

Being that the club is so new, they have only had two meetings and have kept them somewhat simple with informal table talks. The club plans on meeting every Monday—except the first Monday of the month—in a conference room in the counseling office from three o’clock to four-thirty. 

Toastmasters is always open to having visitors but generally, the group is made up of members. Every student that is looking to be a member is required to pay $5 dues and potentially an additional $16. After paying their dues they receive two manuals: one of the manuals is about being a competent leader and the other one is about being a competent communicator. They contain all kinds of projects, goals, evaluations, and feedback forms for the member to complete. The goal would be to work through these manuals over the weeks to earn different certificates. 

For the speech portion of the program, each member must complete ten speeches in order to be a certified Toastmasters Competent Communicator. A member can prepare speeches at home and give one once a week during their meetings or they can work on preparing speeches and practicing them during the meetings. For the leadership portion of the program, a member has the opportunity to take on a club officer position to learn how to manage a club from being a Sergeant at Arms to club President. 

In order to reach different certificates, there are different requirements per level. To begin, for the public speaking track, a member must give ten speeches. With each level comes ten harder, specialized speeches. Similar to the public speaking part, the leadership track requires ten projects. 

There are currently 352,000 members in 16,400 clubs in 143 countries. And Desiree’s mother, Nancy, happens to be a member of a Toastmasters club in Grand Rapids. Nancy’s job within the club at FHC is to train new members and officers to improve their public speaking and leadership skills. 

“I am a toastmaster member from West Michigan Advanced Toastmaster club,” Nancy said. “I also have my club member Mrs. Cindy Lang partnering with me to provide initial member and officer training. We will also invite other successful toastmasters to come to our club either as guest speakers or advisors.” 

There is no doubt that Nancy’s insight and experience with Toastmasters and Desiree’s passion for being a part of this program will benefit the students that choose to become members themselves. 

This is an opportunity that should not be overlooked. When Nancy was given the chance to join Toastmasters after college to succeed at her profession, she knew that was what she had to do. Without hesitation, Nancy believes she “made the right decision” and that her “public speaking skills and leadership skills have improved significantly.”

It is such a wonderful program that will benefit many young people and potentially could change their lives forever.”

— Nancy Tuohy

“It is such a wonderful program that will benefit many young people and potentially could change their lives forever,” Nancy said. “One thing to clarify is that coming to Toastmasters club is not a situation that you will be put in front of people to embarrass yourself. A Toastmasters club is a supportive and friendly environment to help everyone to learn.”

After realizing the impact Toastmasters has had on her, Nancy knew that young people needed something like it. She spent over a year working on implementing this club into FHC, and she credits Assistant Principal and faculty sponsor Whitley Morse for being the “key partner” with her on the program. Morse did a lot of the behind the scenes things to get this club up and running. 

Morse has been and will continue to be at the meetings to help supervise. When the idea to start the club was first brought to her, she looked it up and thought it was a good idea as well as something that would benefit the students immensely. In addition to her supervising, she also has ideas to grow the club and wants to see other schools implementing Toastmasters. 

The adult clubs do competitions and some other different things. Though the adult and gavel clubs are very different from each other, Morse hopes that, with other schools potentially starting Toastmasters, they could do some competitions. She thinks that “a lot of students like the competition aspect of it.”

Overall, Toastmasters looks phenomenal on a college application and will help students in school and possibly in future jobs. They not only will become better speakers and leaders, but they will learn different things about themselves and how they operate. 

“I would just ask students to show up and try it out,” Morse said. “I think they will notice very quickly that as much as public speaking is a serious thing, I don’t think any of us take ourselves super seriously. And I think that just as I learned that I say ‘so’ a lot, they’re also going to learn that there are different things about them and that’s the bonus of all of this. Nobody here is perfect, and we all have areas that we need to work on and need to do better. So, come and try it out, and if you don’t like it, don’t come again, but you never know until you try it out.”