Confident, knowledgeable and charismatic, air cadets from the surrounding area were in town earlier this month as part of an event showcasing youth public speaking.
Representing the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron 257 Parallel out of Ladysmith in the 2018 Air Cadet Vancouver Island Effective Speaking Competition was Samantha Barney.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming in but all the speeches were amazing,” said the 14-year-old.
This is the Squadron 257s second consecutive year hosting the competition in which judges evaluate the cadets presentation of both a prepared and impromptu speech.
Barney has been in air cadets for three years and this was her first time representing her squadron at regionals.
The teen joined the effective speaking program, an optional six week course for cadets, to improve her public speaking skills.
“It’s really helped me gain confidence and it makes me happy. I’ve become more comfortable speaking in public,” she said. “And just with the other people that have done it, I’ve seen them come out of there shell and be able to speak in front of people too.”
The first part of the competition at Aggie Hall involved cadets delivering a five to six minute speech on an assigned subject or one of their choosing.
Topics ranged from Billy Bishop, Canada’s role in aviation advancement, citizenship and how youth in Canada will build the future.
Barney spoke about the cutting edge virtual reality technology.
“My computer science class focused a lot on virtual reality and I found it amazing that we were able to set it up ourselves,” she said.
Air cadets is a program for young Canadians aged 12 to 18 that engages the youth in a variety of fun, challenging and rewarding activities where they can learn valuable life and work skills such as teamwork, leadership and citizenship.
Cathy Gilroy teaches the effective speaking course locally to about seven youth and said it provides the cadets with tools to enrich their speech now, and for the future.
“The group itself is a super team because they are very supportive of each other. It’s very safe,” Gilroy said, also mentioning the personal growth she’s seen in Barney and others.
“Even though we critique each others speeches we do it in a supportive way with the end goal being that everyone improves just a little bit every time.”
The program also emphasizes free-form where cadets will pick topics, often times leading to a lot of fun and great energy in the group.
In the second part of the competition, the cadets were sequestered and given three minutes to prepare a brief speech explaining the rules of their favourite game.
Everything from baseball, Jenga, tag and even a video game were presented.
“I wrote down brief notes but they’re unreadable so I pretty much improvised the whole thing,” said Barney, laughing.
And what exactly leads to success in public speaking ? Gilroy said even if you’re given a difficult topic it all comes down to being true to yourself.
“It’s say what you mean, mean what you say and throw in those five elements (who, what, where, why and how), and your structure, and you’ve got a home run speech,” she said.
“In school, when they’re writing an essay, teachers are always looking for the same elements it’s just that it’s written..and it also helps when you’re going for a job interview.”
Top three in the Effective Speaking Regionals were Flight Cpl. Yashwant Katireddy (89 Pacific out of Victoria), Flight Cpl. Dylan Sprang (848 Royal Roads out of Langford) and Sgt. Lokman Wong (636 Captain Brian Barker out of Campbell River).
Katireddy will now represent the Island at the provincial competition in Richmond in April.