When considering the endless extracurricular activities to put your children in, a public speaking club is rarely considered a possible option. Activities in sports and the arts are more common ways for kids to explore their physical and creative abilities outside of school.
While public speaking clubs are few and far between worldwide, The Young Leaders Public Speaking Club is providing immeasurable value to their students’ lives. Founded in 2019 by Freedom Malhotra, the mission is to provide a safe environment for students to develop their self-confidence and grow into their potential to lead the life of their dreams.
With an MBA in Business from the University of Western Ontario, Freedom has founded several businesses, including Hassle Free Properties. He knew he wanted to share his knowledge with the younger generation but wasn’t sure when he would have the opportunity. Through his experiences as an entrepreneur, the public school system’s flaws became more apparent to Freedom.
“Being a product of the Canadian School System and looking back as an entrepreneur. I realized how many skills I required but was never taught in traditional public school. There was so much I could’ve learned to be better prepared to deal with the challenges I would face”. Freedom also discovered his passion for public speaking when he was assigned his first speech as a young student. “I had very little confidence at the time, so I wasn’t expecting success in public speaking. It boosted my confidence. It gave me a platform to gather my ideas and to speak up, which has helped me a lot in my life. So, I want to bring that to kids”.
The Young Leaders conducted the very first class in September 2019. Meeting every Saturday morning, the students must write and present a 2–3-minute speech in front of their peers and receive feedback from their teachers. In early 2020, Freedom brought poet and musician Kyle Thompson to the teaching team. Kyle exudes his vibrant energy to inspire active participation from his students.
However, he is also mindful to acknowledge the challenges of public speaking. He explains, “endless happiness is not necessarily the way to go. It harms our ability to deal with the raw reality after leaving the cushion of being a child to our parents or being a school student. We need to normalize people feeling anxious or upset so then we can provide the tools kids need to manage them. It is our way of influencing our students and preparing them for the future because our schools did not prepare us”.
Every week, Freedom and Kyle plan their lessons around one predominant leadership theme. To balance the learning material, Freedom and Kyle conduct interactive games. “It is a small group, and Kyle and I create a safe space for the kids to participate and speak up. We have breakout sessions, which allow for deeper conversations.
Kyle also introduced the idea of a social hour after class for the kids to let loose. We’re trying to give the kids as much interaction as possible. I think the games complement the learning material”, Freedom reflects. The Young Leaders Club is intentional in giving students the tools they need to think for themselves and take charge of the life they want to create.
Freedom and Kyle encourage the students to challenge them when necessary. Kyle explains, “I’m mindful of making room for disagreements and debates. We don’t want to push an agenda onto our students because that leaves no room to deviate from ideas”. By prioritizing interaction, The Young Leaders has enriched the conversations students have with their peers, teachers, and families.
The program is a pillar for youth wellness because it provides the skills students need to face challenges, problem solve, gather solutions, and express themselves eloquently. Public speaking is not an easy task. Many people fear presenting speeches, and it is easily avoidable outside of the school system. The Young Leaders bridges the gaps between education and the real world, creating a program that compliments what is already being taught in school.
As a parent, Freedom has first and secondhand experience with the Ontario Curriculum. “Our syllabus was derived from looking at the gaps in the curriculum and seeing what children are learning, and not learning. The fundamentals I’ve learned that I find are essential, such as self-awareness, the difference between reactivity and proactivity, and how to set a goal”.
Every week, Freedom and Kyle have a chance to witness the positive impact they are making on their students and their families. Freedom notices a difference with parental support. “When parents are more involved, there is a transformation in the students. We get stronger results because we are also enriching the conversations at home”. Strengthening the relationships kids have at home will make them more confident as they step out into the world. Since becoming a teacher, Kyle has been inspired by students and is more comfortable in front of the young leaders.
“When I was new to teaching, I was self-conscious of how the youngsters would respond to me. The classroom can be a place to project insecurities. But as time went on, I learned that the doubts were necessary, but it taught me how the youngsters are evolving”. While public speaking clubs are rare, the information and transformation provided by the Young Leaders Club is creating a group of skillful public speakers, problem solvers, and goal-oriented individuals that will successfully lead the next generation.
The Young Leaders offers classes every Saturday via Zoom from 11 am to 12:30 pm. The second semester is currently in effect. For more information, visit https://theyoungleaders.ca