Building confidence and creating future leaders is what Toastmasters strives to do with each of its members. The international club has been a part of the Waxahachie community since 2003.
Club president Skip Mondragon said his interest in the organization grew after hearing positive comments from a person he worked with while in the military.
“I heard about Toastmasters back in the mid-1990s when I was stationed at Fort Hood Darnall Army Medical Center. A subordinate of mine attended Toastmasters and he would tell me about it,” Mondragon said. “I have always had an interest in public speaking from such great orators as Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., so it piqued my interest in how I could improve my public speaking.”
According to the Toastmasters International website, the organization teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of 16,600 clubs in 143 countries. Since its founding in 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders.
Mondragon said when he retired from the Army in 2014 and moved to Texas, he decided to become involved in the organization.
“It has given me more confidence and it has given me a framework of how to construct a speech, how to give that speech in different areas whether it be a small, medium or a large sized group, and to do different types of speeches,” Mondragon said. “For instance, this past fall I participated in a tall tales contest. I would never have thought I would have participated in this type of contest.”
The foundation of Toastmasters is built on education where members learn by giving speeches and filling leadership roles and also by continual practice so a person becomes comfortable speaking in front of others. Other ways they learn are through peer feedback, mentoring and going through a self-paced program.
Toastmasters uses several educational techniques, including an online program called Pathways, which helps members sharpen and improve their skill through a variety of lessons. It is composed of 10 paths and each path is made up of five levels that increase in complexity. A path is complete when a member completes 14 projects across the five levels. Each project includes one speech. Speaking contests are held twice annually.
“There are 10 different pathways that an individual can do,” Mondragon said. “There are a variety of pathways from dynamic leadership to personal influence, innovative planning, leadership development and motivational strategies. Anyone can choose one of these after doing an assessment; a pathway will be recommended.”
Since he joined the group in 2015, Mondragon has seen several people, including himself, improve their speaking skills and grow as a person.
“I think that people are becoming aware of the benefits of what Toastmasters brings,” Mondragon said. “Individuals are called upon to speak daily in a variety of formats. It might be a boss calling on you to share something with a group of employees. Public speaking is not necessarily before a large crowd. We believe this is the best and the most cost-effective program to assist people in growing in their communication ability and leadership skills.”
The Waxahachie Toastmasters club meets from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays in the lyceum at Sims Library, located at 515 W. Main St. in Waxahachie. For more information about the club, search for Waxahachie Toastmasters on Facebook or visit its website online at https://waxahachietoastmasters.toastmastersclubs.org.