The Queen Silver Star Excellence Program participants were all early for their Monday evening Speech Craft class.
This public speaking training is presented by volunteers from the Vernon Toastmasters Club.
The candidates took part in a variety of exercises, including the longer speeches which showed the depth and variety of their experiences, interests and concerns as young people.
Adrianne Clark, Miss Blenz Coffee, titled her speech Soul Sister, the story of her close friendship with her cousin.
“We did everything together. We played with our dolls, had tiny tea parties, played with the farm kittens,” Clark described the idyllic days when they were children, before circumstances separated the girls.
“Our family was divided. There was struggle and sorrow but we stayed in contact.
“It was difficult but we found strength in each other. I feel blessed to have such a friendship that has grown as I have grown,” she said.
Ashley Yatkowsky titled her speech Memories, painting a picture of fishing with her grandfather, eating perogies made by her great-grandmother, visiting other family members and learning their stories, and the sadness of saying a final good-bye to older relatives.
“Our memories are the stories of our lives,” she said.
Taylor Seward, Miss White House Mortgages, took on the topic of bullying in Everyone is Different.
“There’s a lot more to people than you think,” she said, citing statistics that show that more than half of Canadian students ages 11 to 16 have been bullied and many do not feel safe in the school environment.
“Most students have witnessed bullying and many don’t tell because they are afraid they will be the next target. I have stood up against bullying and others have got on board.
“The team approach seems to stop bullies from using their intimidation tactics,” she said.
The last speaker, the 14 candidates take turns speaking at the weekly meeting with each one making several short and long speeches, was Dayle Schmidt, Miss Armstrong Kin Club.
She spoke on a subject she is clearly passionate about, Women Empowerment.
“Women think they have to be perfect, that they cannot be a success if they are not beautiful. We put so much pressure on ourselves but really we are all beautiful as we are, in our own ways,” she said.
Each candidate also gave a short, impromptu talk on a subject chosen by two of the other candidates.
The topics varied from sports to travel to looking ahead to the future and back to the past.
The candidates took turns serving as group leaders, timers and evaluators.
They were positive in their appreciation for what the others were doing and offered suggestions about what might make the speeches even better.
They were supportive of each other, with high-fives and whispered congratulations after each speech.
While their attention was on the course, they took the break time to talk about other concerns in their busy lives, from university pre-requisite courses to their dresses for upcoming events.
Many were wearing high heels to practise for the modeling part of the program.
“The classes are great. I feel I’m gaining confidence and life lessons. It is helping me at school, to,” said Christianne Edblad, Miss Johnston Meier Insurance.
“It’s preparing us to go out into the world.”
Courtney Moi, Miss Durning Directions, said, “I am learning to present myself as a young lady and to be more comfortable talking, to my peers and teachers and people I don’t know. You learn so much about how to take care of yourself.
“I wish every girl could have a chance to do this.”
This year’s Speech Craft course is facilitated by Vernon Toastmasters Club members Uta Van Ziffle and Jacqui Hughes, with other club members sharing their expertise as guest speakers.
The candidates are working towards the speech competition, and their training will include one dinner meeting to practise speaking in this setting.
Guest speaker, long-time Toastmaster and instructor, Jean Wetherill talked to the young women about building a speech.
“Know your topic, enjoy it, and respect your audience. Take the time to practice,” she advised.
“People say you are so lucky to be in this program but you are working hard and preparing yourselves.
“You are all doing very well in the roles you take on in this class and the introductions and evaluations are very good.
“You will all grow and be friends and help each other.”
Some of the judges (also volunteers, as is everyone involved in the excellence program) attend each class to get to know the candidates.
Two of the judges, Cathy Cope and Debbie Gardner, were at the Speech Craft class.
The candidates attend a variety of classes several times a week to prepare for their public appearances in the fashion show, talent show, coronation and other community events.
Kelsey Bracewell, Miss Kari Gares Global West Mortgage, gave the closing thought.
“We are all individuals and as we learn and grow in the program, I hope we will all keep our own unique personalities,” she said.