Pep Squad


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But the story he told those front-row kids is the story we all need to hear. It’s about knowing what you want to do and making it happen, your own equivalent of taking yourself from a mud hut where you sleep on a dirt floor with six siblings and your parents into a country of opportunity and promise where organizations will pay money to hear you tell your story. That’s where it happens –the sharing of your dream, the telling of your story.

So what’s the story about those kids? There’s a humorous irony in it. On opening day of the conference at 6:30 am, Kim Johnson, long-distance teacher via skype who flew in from California for the occasion, and Donna Hammond, volunteer classroom assistant, piled 13 students into two SUV’s and left the parking lot of Imagine Charter School in Firestone, on their way to hear Albert Mensah, “Prince of Possibilities,” an immigrant, tell his story.

These kids were already immersed in a K-8 public charter school where possibilities came out of hard work. Determined parents chartered this alternative with a concentration in classical education where all subjects, Latin included, interact and support one another. Kim Johnson, when her son was a sixth grader, wanted middle school students to have electives--that led to the Speech, Debate, and Drama Program started as an after school enrichment class. Kim’s husband, Jim, a Toastmaster in the IBM club, suggested incorporating the Leadership Program into the class. The Toastmasters program became a class as Kim added her own materials and by the end of the year all 12 students earned the Leadership Award, a first for middle school students in Colorado. Several of those students, now in their third year of the program, work toward their third certificate. Advanced students mentor beginning students, providing a peer advocate. With a new school administration a new plea was successful to allow the program to continue in the school. Supported only by volunteers, everything that runs the program—material, time, resources-- is donated. Requirements in the program continually expand. Students attend overflowing

many Toastmaster events including the debate presented last year at Coal Ridge Middle School, where some of those participants acted as judges for the student debate later that year.

Networking develops momentum. A few months ago after Kim’s husband told her about the 2010 District 26 Fall conference, she contacted Julia Davis, current District 26 Governor and former IBM Toastmaster club mentor when Jim was the club President. For some time, familiar with Albert Mensah’s work, Kim had wanted her students to hear him speak. Surprised to learn he was the keynote speaker for the conference, Kim asked if there was any way the fee could be waived so the kids could attend. Julia obliged.

But more happened before the conference. Kim tells, "one night while listening to an online speech by Mr. Mensah I decided to send him an email asking if …my students might meet and talk with him…at the conference….I was shocked when about an hour later I received an email from Mr. Mensah himself. We ended up corresponding for about 4 weeks prior to the conference…my students’ excitement grew every week."

Finally on their way, during the hour’s drive students were "drilled on behavior, decorum, even how to shake hands and how to introduce themselves. While I was registering, Mr. Mensah walked past the students and introduced himself…it was as though someone had injected each of them with adrenaline, not a foot was touching the floor."

The kids from a school called "Imagine" and a man from the jungle of Ghana who realized his dream, who imagined his own possibilities and made getting to the United States the focus of his life to become a world-class motivational speaker, met face-to-face, shook hands and exchanged words, sharing the same world for a only few short minutes. Yet each would take away something that would make life a little richer, a little more interesting, with a sense of greater possibilities. Not bad for a field trip to a Toastmasters conference.

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