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caption: David Reed’s daughter, Alia Reed, speaks in front a group during a speech contest. She gained confidence in public speaking through participating in the Toastmasters Gavel Club program.
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David Reed’s daughter, Alia Reed, speaks in front a group during a speech contest. She gained confidence in public speaking through participating in the Toastmasters Gavel Club program.
Credit: David Reed

The Toastmasters youth program helped me find my voice

Have you ever felt a big lump in your throat as you got up to speak to new people? I was eight years old when I first noticed “the lump.” It came whenever I tried to speak.

Through the Toastmasters Gavel Club program, I gained confidence in public speaking and learned how to make an impact with just my voice. Best of all, I overcame the lump.

David Reed is one of the founders of the program's Seattle chapter. I talked to him about how Toastmasters helps young people like me.

Toastmasters is a club where people practice public speaking, and Gavel Club is their program for youth under 18. I really wanted to get over the lump, so my parents signed me and my siblings up for the program. David Reed says that many parents want this experience for their kids.

“Some of them brought us children that were very shy, or suffered from social anxiety,” David said. “They wanted us to help their child in a safe environment to overcome those limitations and fears.”

David has three children with autism. He told me about a time when one of his kids was taking part in a writing contest and had to read her work in front of an audience. She was so worried about reading out loud that she didn’t even want to attend. She was one of the main reasons why David and his wife, Samia, started Seattle's Toastmasters Gavel Club program.

caption: David Reed speaks during a conference on Public Speaking at the Microsoft Conference Centers.
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David Reed speaks during a conference on Public Speaking at the Microsoft Conference Centers.
Credit: Courtesy of David Reed

David remembers the first day of the Toastmasters program.

“There were tears, my daughter among them,” he told me. “My three children with autism were in the room. They were not happy to be thrust into this experience.” But after two years in the program, David and Samia’s kids learned to love the stage. David says that his daughter still enjoys speaking in a meeting and loves being in charge.

I was eight years old when I took charge of getting rid of that lump in my throat. I pushed to join my local Toastmasters Gavel Club program, even though I was below the age requirement. More than seven years later, I’m able to talk freely and with confidence.

caption: Young people attend a meeting of the Toastmaster Gavel Club program.
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Young people attend a meeting of the Toastmaster Gavel Club program.
Credit: David Reed

David Reed says that the Toastmasters program can take kids at age 12 and prepare them to be professional speakers. “By the time they get to college, they will have the ability to speak extemporaneously, engage in service-oriented leadership, and speak publicly with a plan, and with impact.”

This safe space that David and Samia created helps give young people confidence as they get older. Without having participated in Toastmasters Gavel Club, I don’t think I would have been able to join KUOW’s RadioActive Youth Media program.


All audio for this story was collected following CDC safety guidelines during Covid-19.

This story was created in KUOW's RadioActive Online Radio Journalism Workshop for 15- to 18-year-olds, with production support from Sonya Harris. Edited by Lila Lakehart.

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Support for KUOW's RadioActive comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center.