Saturday, May 10, 2014

Make your child stand out - Summer Speech Program

Recently I picked up this interesting little book 'The Art of Being Unmistakable" the author Srinivas Rao, writes:
"The future belongs to the misfits?

Perhaps it always has.
It seems fitting that I'm writing this at Burning Man, a strange and alternative pop-up city that had to venture into the middle of nowhere - an ancient lakebed in the Nevada desert, known as playa - to bring itself into being near the end of every August.

  Each time I come here, to this world of portapotties, alkaline dust storms, sweltering days, freezing nights, and no Starbucks - I swear to myself, this is the last freaking time.  And yet there's a point when something in me shifts over and I know I will return.  How could I not? "Welcome home," Burners say as we reunite with each other on the playa, and it's true.  Even if you've never been here before, the playa calls you home."

In the last line, on page 130 of 'The Art of Being Unmistakable", the author says" It's the opportunity for a performance where you leave your heart on the stage."

So you read this powerful little book, it's everything you ever thought about?  It's the commonsense stuff your mother said, or your 4th grade teacher, yea!

Then you think about leaving your heart on the big stage, everyone has their idea of what their big stage is?  What about the art of being unmistakable?  How do you get there?

Each week when I enter the classrooms, for 1.5 hr sessions, I see that " opportunity for that performance, in those children "  They have that chance to be unmistakable.

  Maybe when your running that marathon 26.2 miles, at mile 16 you hit the wall, the lactic acid builds in your legs!  Thank god, a water stop, you walk, your legs burn, you want to quit?  You down some Gatorade, grab some cookies, sugar, sugar, you want to quit, your legs say quit, your brain says you trained and trained, it says no!  And the big stage is only 10.2 miles away, eke!  People along the way see your pain, they know, because they may have experienced the big stage, they feel your pain. They know about the big can change your life.

They know, soon you will arrive at the big stage, it's just like returning to the playa, it even has portapotties, thou this stage may have a Starbucks!  Your body is so tired, you have forgotten about the pain!  You have arrived - when you get it, it's so powerful!

It's so powerful, when you arrive!

Don't we all hit the wall?  Do you wonder what Albert Einstein's parents thought when at 9 years old his teacher said he would never amount to anything?  Do you wonder what he thought? What if that was your child?  What if it was you who wanted to break down the wall?  We know Albert Einstein's story, but how about the next kid, he may not have a 150+ IQ, he may not be smarter then the detractors, those who put up the wall!

 When Ronald Reagan said "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  was it a different wall, not really, but in reality  it's the same wall that separates people from different freedom's.

Who builds the walls?  It could be you, me, educators, government, bosses, the kids in the school yard?  What if the wall was just in your mind?  Do you think Albert Einstein cared about the wall?  Why do people keep returning to the palya, maybe because they find answers.  How to climb the wall, how to get to the big stage?

My mission Youth Speaking to America, is about breaking down walls.  It's about giving students the chance to become someone.  So exactly what is the big stage?  Is it inventing the iPhone, scoring the touchdown that wins the Iron-bowl, or telling the world about The Theory of Relativity?  You decide, what is your goal?

Youth Speaking to America is about teaching how to open your mind, not to ever believe that person who says you can't do that, your not smart enough?  Remember in teaching children there is no wall, like Walt Disney said " if you can dream it, you can do it" you can!

 Everyone can reach the big stage.  Your stage may be American Idol, teaching children, breaking down barriers like Nelson Mandela,  building Amazon ( Jeff Bezos ), or just a good parent, teaching values.  Remember you don't have to be rich, just be real!

Personally, I don't remember being told this stuff, I did stuff the hard way, because I lacked education.  The one thing I tell all the students, if you work hard, and be on time, someone will notice.  But if you build your own wall ( no education ) it's so much harder, I know!

If your a person who likes my ideas, see t what the children say:


Building a Toolbox

  • The vision board
  • Extemporaneous / impromptu speaking-called Table Topics (T T)
  • Your first speech - title: About Me 
  • Learning the art of speech evaluation
  • Each student will receive the  Youth Leadership Handbook 

The goals of each meeting:
  1. A fun way for your children to learn public speaking.
  2. Creating and learning how to answer those extemporaneous questions,  build speeches, present speeches and evaluate speeches.
  3. Lots of emphasis on the use of filler words, such as like, and,so, also overcoming the use of hums & ah's.
  4. The program is based on weekly participation, if possible. Becoming a good speaker is work and the more often the child speaks, the quicker their confidence will grow.
  5. Experience growth with guest speakers, evaluations by experienced speakers, and continuing mentor-ship.
  6. At each meeting the children actively participate in evaluating each other.
  7. This will be a continuing program.
Our goal is to engage your child each time they attend.

Timing: each meeting will have an assigned timer

  • T T : up to 1 minute
  • Speeches: 2-3 minutes
  • Evaluations: up to 1 minute


Location: Hope Lutheran Church
Address:  1801 62nd Ave N. 
                St. Petersburg, Fl. 33702 - parking behind building on 18th St.
                                                            look for YSTA signs
Meeting time depends on how many students 10-12pm
Dates tentative: 
June 17 - 24 
July  1 - 8 - 15 - 22 - 29
Aug.  5
Aug.  6  Graduation / Speech Contest -- families are invited  5:30 - 8pm        727-455-7337

Friday, May 9, 2014

Is a child's future worth $6.25 a week?

See what these children think

In this fun video the 5th graders were each given a index card. On the card they were to put only their first name and list four things they wanted to do with their lives. They were each given 30 seconds to talk about the the four goals. But then I tricked them and had them switch cards, so they had to be the person on the card. It is a ton of laughs.

Mr. York,You are so very funny and give very good speeches. You have helped me so much. I will never forget this class and it will help me later when I am an adult because I am not as scared to speak in front of a crowd anymore. I have become a better speech writer and speaker. Thank You Mr. York.
Dear Mr. York,“ As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way.” ( Irish Blessing) And hopefully you will not fall off until the end. And at the end, may you land softly on your feet. ( Ending by Connor)

Mr. York,You are the best. No other speeches are better than yours. Toastmasters is soooo fun and you're right, Go Giants! You are so funny and awesome. Thank You so much.
Mr. York,You are a great teacher. I now know how to speak in front of a crowd. I have also learned how to write speeches. Thank you a lot. I have grown as a speaker and writer .Sincerely  
Dear Mr. York,
I think you are fun. This was one of the best things that I've done all school year. I had a great time because you were there. You helped me learn to speak in public. Thank You.
Dear Mr. York,
You always have funny or sad stories to share with us each day you come in. You are the best Toastmaster in my opinion. Every time you come in everybody cheers up instantly. You are one of the funniest people I know!Best
Mr. York,
What I learned from Toastmasters is that if you stand up and take a stand, you can change the world...but you have to be prepare and memorize your speech. It is also very good to use gestures in speeches. Now we are prepared to change the world. Thank You Mr. York!
Mr. York,
Thank you for Toastmasters. Whenever I think of the word 'Toastmasters' I think of toasted marshmallows. Yum. Anyways, people are always telling me Toastmasters will be a great learning experience. I thought writing a speech was like writing a story. But you taught me it's not. Thank you for teaching me. The career I want includes being an entertainer or a writer. Thank you.
Best Wishes,
.Mr. York,
Thank You for Toastmasters! I had a blast. You were the best Toastmasters teacher I've ever had. I will never forget you. I love everything about Toastmasters. It was an awesome experience.
Best Wishes,
Dear Mr. York,
I really liked Toastmasters. I now have the courage to stand up and speak. Thank you for teaching me how to speak correctly. Toastmasters was fun. I will use these skills.
.Dear Mr. York,
You taught me how to be a better writer/speech giver. I thank you because now I can put more of me in my writing. I really think that you did a great job. And I think you are really funny.
Thank you,
.Dear Mr. York,
Thank you so much for helping me and teaching me how to speak in front of people. Also, for teaching me how to write speeches. The Liz Murry speech helped me with grades because thinking that she got good grades makes me get good grades. And the nicest thing you did was giving me the Toastmasters book.
Your friend
Dear Mr. York,
Thank you so much for helping me speak up. I have always had a fear of speaking in front of people, but after Toastmaster, I'm not as freaked out! Toastmasters  has been a great experience for me and my classmates. Even though Toastmaster is ending, I hope to see you again. Remember when I saw you at  Panera? Hopefully, I will be able to enter the speech competition.Best Wishes,
…......................................Dear Mr. York,Thank you for teaching us the main points of Toastmasters. I really enjoyed improving my speaking skills. I think you did a great job! Say “no” to 'ums' and 'ahhs'!
.Dear Mr. York,
Thank you for taking your time to teach us how to speak clearly and professionally. I really enjoyed your time and so did all my other classmates. I hope that next year in middle school we can have Toastmasters again. I learned a lot inToastmasters.
Dear My York
,Thank you for teaching us how to do public speaking. I had a great time. I hope you did too. I think Toastmasters has helped me in the way I speak. It was pretty fun to write all of those speeches and table topic questions.
Mr. York,
I really liked Toastmasters. Every week was very exciting. I felt like I could express myself with words and props when I shared. I got suggestions every week to help fix my speeches and I came back with better ones each week. I'm so happy I did Toastmasters class.
Thank you.
…...................................Mr. York,Thank you for teaching me about Toastmasters. The one thing I really learned about was how to write a good speech, speak loud and strong, and not to say 'um' and 'uh' as much.
Thank you Mr. York.
To a awesome mentor,Thank you for making us all better speakers. I enjoyed making all of my speeches; from my “All about Me” to my “ Persuasive”. I also enjoyed evaluating speeches and answering Table Topics. I loved talking about the X-Factor.
Dear Mr. York,Thank you so much for coming to our classroom! I learned a lot and I have not said 'uh' or 'um' in a long time. I really enjoyed having you as a guest teacher! You really taught me how to stretch out my speaking.
Dear Mr. York,
You helped me so much with speeches and talking in public! You made me a better person. I really think you are a hilarious person. Thank you for taking your free time and teaching us about Toastmasters. Thank you so much.
Your friend,
.Mr. York,I have learned a lot in Toastmasters. Without you I would still have my stage fright. But you helped me through it. You probably are the most funny and knowledgeable Toastmaster I have ever meet.
Your Friend,
Mr. York,I thank you for helping me with “public speaking”. I really needed help because I'm shy when it comes to standing in front of a group and giving a speech. But made speaking fun and easy. I will keep practicing and I will become a great speaker. Thank you for everything you have done. Go Giants!
Hey Mr. York,Thanks for being so funny while you were with us. And thanks for teaching us how to give speeches so well. If you are for the Giants, I have to disagree, Go Patriots! I like it when you come because you make gifted more fun!
Thank You,
.Mr. York,Toastmasters is awesome and you're awesome. Thank you for teaching us about speeches and table topics. You taught me a lot of weird facts about random things. Thank you for all you taught us.
Dear Mr. York,
Thank you so much for teaching us to write speeches, be a respectful audience, and write unique questions. You are an inspiring person who has a big sense of humor. I love how that “Yoooo” because it sounds like a mixture of 'booing and saying 'yo what's up'. I hope you have a good rest of the year.
Dear Mr. York,
Thank you very much! You were always happy and you had good stories to tell. You taught us about giving speeches and having eye-contact. You helped us by giving us good techniques. Thank you very much!
Best Wishes!

Mr. York,
Thanks for being our Toastmaster mentor. I had lots of fun sharing speeches with the class. I also learned a lot and now I am way more comfortable writing and sharing speeches.
Mr. York
By: Lauren B.

I love Toastmasters thanks to one special person. Mr. York. Over the past several weeks, our class has had the honor of the mentoring of Mr. York Somerville in Toastmasters youth leadership program. Mr. York as we called him, always came to our class with a positive attitude. It was almost like he enjoyed working with us! :) Something not many people would do. Mr. York taught us many things; like organization, organizing our speeches, being good listeners, voice project, and use of gestures. We learned how to give and receive constructive criticism through our evaluation guide. Most importantly, he taught us speaking in front of people is not our number one fear, number two being death according to many studies. At this time we would like to show our appreciation of Mr. York with a few memorable gifts. Mr. York please join me at the lectern. First a shirt. You are now officially part of the Pasadena family!!!! Second, a stopwatch. That way you no longer need to endanger your fancy phone. And third, a photo album so you never forget us.. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this about public speaking, “Be sincere, be brief, and be seated.” As will I.
These students are my American Idols, when they call you “ awesome, funny, a great teacher, exciting, hilarious, most funny and most knowledgeable Toastmaster, weird!
It swells your head.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

The value of public speaking for our youth

Recently my fellow Toastmaster in Tampa, Joe Jones was presented an outstanding leadership award. Below is the letter he wrote to his area Governor, John Morse DTM, and the response from the student.

When I was presented the Toastmaster award by you, I mentioned Aldo Colon, the 14 year old kid that started me on this youth program journey, who turned 18 recently. I told him how he was instrumental in starting the youth program which contributed to the Toastmaster honor. Yesterday I received this email (copied below) from Aldo. This is proof that these youth programs have an impact beyond what we know. I’m going to Aldo’s district competition, and I’m going to pay his first years dues in the Toastmaster club of his choice.

York, keep up the good work – you know how these programs work better than anyone.

Hi Joe,

I am extremely glad to hear from you! I am touched that the club was able to expand and influence more people than I would have ever imagined. I am thankful to God that he used me to pour blessings beyond comprehension to you! Out of all the Toastmasters I have become familiar with over the years, there is still not one that I have met as great as you. In all honesty, if it were not for your help I would not be in the position I am today. The Toastmasters training I have received has helped me grow as a student, leader, and person. I am astounded at the things God has done for you through the seeds I sowed. However, I would like to take the time to tell you the fruits of the seeds you sowed four years ago.

Coming into high school I had more courage than any of my peers when it came to public speaking. I was able to skillfully give presentations, and hold conversations with my superiors with confidence and dignity like no one in my class could. For some time this was all I was able to make use of my training. However, as I progressed in my studies, my English teacher Mrs. Ledman noticed my skill in public speaking at a poetry reading. Mrs. Ledman suggested I use my "talent" more often. At that moment, the skills you taught me brought back exponential results. As part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program examinations, I needed to converse with my teacher about literature we had studied in class. I was able to effortlessly pass with flying colors. Although there were many other speaking exams which I had passed, the fruits of the seeds you sowed were not confined to solely the academic realm. I joined the debate club at my school and won the "Best Speaker Award." I then was elected in to offices of clubs such as the office of Treasurer of the National History Honor Society and the office of President of National Spanish Honor society. My reputation as a speaker began to grow around school. It grew to the point where I was personally asked to guest speak at clubs around the school, and I was eventually able to establish mini-seminars helping students around my school gain confidence in public speaking modeled after the 8-week course I enrolled in as a fourteen year old. Public speaking molded my resume and allowed me to gain acceptance into top universities such as Brandeis University and the University of Florida. I was even able to beat out seven other competitors in a group interview for a job. However, the fruits continue to yield.

This week was the school wide Tropicana Speech competition. Mrs. Ledman had signed me up for the competition but I had put the competition in the back burner as I am in the midst of preparing for college and finishing high school strong. Eventually, the day of the competition came and I had no speech to give because I had completely forgot about the competition. I showed up to the competition to tell Mrs. Ledman that I would be dropping out because I had no speech and was totally unprepared. Mrs. Ledman told me to "wing it" as she had faith in my skills as a public speaker. So, I was forced to compete without a speech. I kept thinking of your impacting quote, "People will never remember what you said, but people will always remember how you made them feel" which has now become the motto and foundation of my public speaking career. I gave myself a topic I was extremely familiar with, and treated the competition as a four-minute table topic. I watched my competitors as each one spoke. Although they were prepared with power point presentations and note cards, they did not have the poise, grace, and elocution that only proper training from a polished expert such as yourself can bring. I took to the lectern with confidence and gave my four-minute impromptu speech. I won first place. Below is the link to my school web site acknowledging my victory.

That being said, it would be an honor to have you come watch me at the district level competition on May 10th. You have impacted my life beyond comprehension and I know without a shadow of a doubt that without your place in my life, I would not be where I am today. You too have impacted a number of other students and I know that your training will bear even more fruit in my life as I begin my collegiate career.

Thank you for all you have done in my life and continue to do in the life of others! You deserve that award! Thank you!

My warmest regards,


Joe teaches his Toastmaster Youth Leadership Program in Tampa. If you know students who might be interested, please contact him.
Joe H. Jones

Please see the YSTA-summer speech program bellow