Loud and proud


Public speaking has become a source of inner strength for students at a specialty school that has even helped some build new lives.

Eight people graduated from a course offered by Thunder Bay’s Speakers’ School. Graduates enjoyed a night of delivering their speeches on subjects ranging from recovery, faith and leadership, on Tuesday. Guest speakers addresed related topics like disability, poverty and unemployment.

Karli Brotchie, facilitator for the school’s graduation, said the course is designed to empower people by teaching them how to speak clearly in a public setting and gain confidence.

Among the graduates was Anne Chuchmuch, 45, who six months ago was living in Toronto, addicted to crack cocaine, apparently with no future.

“Basically, I was standing still, not moving ahead or going backwards,” she said in an interview before the graduation. “I wanted more and had glimmers of the life I could have, but my crack cocaine addiction was holding me back.”

Everything changed for Chuchmuch in June. She said that through a series of circumstances she arrived in Thunder Bay, and her common-law husband told her about the Speakers’ School he had attended. She registered through AIDS Thunder Bay.

Chuchmuch said it has been a life-changing experience. Not only did she learn to write and speak clearly, techniques she learned during the course have made her a more confident person.

“I highly recommend this course to anyone who gets nervous around people,” she said. “They teach students not just to deal with the public, but calming techniques, and I am already telling my friends to register.”

The lessons learned have opened doors, she said.

Since joining the Speaker’s School, she’s completed a course at Lakehead University, started working at AIDS Thunder Bay and is planning to enrol at Everest College for business administration. She will also be doing speaking engagements for AIDS Thunder Bay.

The Speaker’s School began in 2008 through a Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers’ Support Group initiative, in collaboration with community partners including the Lakehead Social Planning Council and the Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic.

The school’s main purpose is to develop public speaking and leadership skills, and to raise awareness of social justice issues. The school is open to anyone who is an injured worker, living in poverty or facing other economic challenges. The school attempts to address and overcome barriers to participation, and promotes an atmosphere of peer support and mutual aid.

The free 14-week course runs twice a year, teaching public speaking and leadership skills in an environment of peer support and within the context of education in social justice issues; guest speakers present on issues relating to disability, poverty and unemployment.

The training consists of exercises focusing on effective communication, public speaking and group facilitation, combined with lectures on social justice and other related topics presented by community trainers. Speakers’ School also co-ordinates and facilitates monthly meetings of the alumni who wish to continue developing their skills and broadening their knowledge.

About 40 students have graduated from the school since its inception.

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