That’s how one of the AYLA presentations began this past Wednesday. AYLA stands for Alamance Youth Leadership Academy, and rising 7th graders are chosen to participate each year. The program began with 2 schools in 2007 and “currently serves 205 seventh and eighth graders in eleven public, independent and charter middle schools in Alamance County.” The program is a joint effort of the Elon University Center for Leadership, Alamance-Burlington School System, Alamance Citizens for Education, and Leadership Alamance Alumni.
I had the privilege of presenting a workshop with the students this week on Public Speaking. Each workshop lasted about an hour, and I spoke to 50 young people at a time. It was a lot of fun, but when one of them asked me during the question and answer time if I ever get nervous before speaking, I had to say, “Yes! I was nervous before I came here today. I am not used to speaking to 11 and 12 year-olds.” But it was a blast, and I was happy to be able to at least whet their appetite for learning to speak in public.The next day, 300 family and friends gathered to hear these students give presentations about what they see as the strengths and the weaknesses of their schools, and what they will plan to do in the next two years to improve them. They did a great job, and took my encouragement seriously about being enthusiastic, organized, and interesting. Several groups started their presentations with some kind of hook, in order to get the attention of the audience and make them want to listen. One student started with, “How many of you have been frustrated about poor internet connections?” Of course, nearly every hand went up. Another student started her presentation by asking us, “How many of you have served on student government?” Then, with a smile, “How many of you enjoyed it?” One of the improvements her group was proposing would re-establish a thriving student government in their middle school.
My favorite hook was a two-man standup routine that was short but sweet. One boy said to the other, “Why don’t they give tests in the jungle?” The second boy said, “I don’t know.” The first replied, “Because there are too many cheetahs!”
You can find out more about AYLA here.