Mason Jennings (back row centre) and the Jam Masters Public Speaking and Leadership Gavel Club.

Mason Jennings (back row centre) and the Jam Masters Public Speaking and Leadership Gavel Club.

Victoria youth finds voice in gavel club

During Mason Jennings' first experience with the Jam Masters Public Speaking and Leadership Gavel Club, he ran out of the room.

During Mason Jennings’ first experience with the Jam Masters Public Speaking and Leadership Gavel Club, he ran out of the room because he was too afraid to speak.

The then 11-year-old Victoria resident had been home-schooled until that point and was terrified of speaking in front of people.

“I had a hard time speaking in front of four to five people,” Jennings said. “I would mess up my words, I would get nervous, I couldn’t really speak.”

Despite a terrifying first ordeal, he gave it some thought and decided to return to the club the following week — this time, he didn’t run out of the room.

“It was the desire for public speaking,” Jennings said about why he came back. “In our world, you have to talk to people. I thought it was a good idea to start those skills when I was younger and build on it the rest of your life.”

Five years later, the now 16-year-old is the president of the club and helps facilitate the weekly meetings.

He is also more confident speaking in school, where he is a student rep, making presentations to the board of education about education problems.

The Jam Masters Public Speaking and Leadership Gavel Club is a junior version of toastmasters that runs year-round and encourages participants to overcome their fears of public speaking. Every Friday, roughly 20 to 30 kids between the ages of seven to 17 meet and make voluntary speeches on anything from the history of apples to their favourite toy and things they read about. They have impromptu speech competitions as well.

Fred Jones, the facilitator, said the club allows youth to work together.

“If they play sports, eight-year-olds and 16-year-olds cannot play together, it doesn’t work. The same is true of many things; in school, you’re in a classroom,” Jones said. “Here eight-year-olds and 16-year-olds collaborate. That diversity is very important. . . There’s a lot of ability for leadership and communication.”

The club is hosting a special year-end two-hour meeting open all parents and children on Friday, Dec. 11.

Children will be asked to come with a three-minute prepared speech about what was important, interesting and enjoyable to them about life in the gavel club and what they want to work towards next year. People will also be able to enjoy food from the 13 countries that members represent.

The club will start up again in January.