Louisiana's first Gavel Club charted in Ascension

Brandie Richardson
Gavel Club organizer and counselor Dr. Michelle Taylor, Parish President Kenny Matassa, and charter member Tamiko Stroud.

A new organization has been charted in Ascension Parish, offering students 18-years-old and younger the opportunity to perfect their public speaking and work on skills needed for everyday life.

The group, Young Voices of Ascension Gavel Club, is an affiliate of the non-profit educational organization Toastmasters International, which is a global network with more than 300,000 members that aims to improve member's communication, public speaking and leadership skills.

On March 26, the group was chartered in Gonzales, making this the only Gavel Club in District 68 of Toastmasters, which compasses all of Louisiana, with the exception of Shreveport, Beaumont, Texas, and southern Mississippi. It was coordinated by Gonzales resident Dr. Michelle Taylor.

Gavel Club members meet twice a month to practice speeches in order to overcome the popular fear of speaking in public. In order to become a member, those interested must complete an eight-week Youth Leadership Program that is designed to teach them all about the art of public speaking.

"It is a form to speak in front of a receptive crowd who gives them constructive criticism in a fun and exciting way," said Parent Committee member Tamiko Garrison. "Whether you are in middle school, high school, college or your adult life, overcoming that fear of public speaking is very important. It is the number one fear of Americans, so starting off at a young age, teaching them the art and helping them to overcome that fear is very important."

Parish President Kenny Matassa proclaimed Sunday, March 26 as Young Voices of Ascension Gavel Club Day in the Parish.

“Gavel clubs are a way of providing the Toastmasters experience to groups who may be ineligible for regular membership due to member age, inability to pay dues or other circumstances,” Matassa said. “I am very proud that Ascension Parish will host the first Gavel Club in Louisiana.”

There are currently eight members of the group, President Skye Taylor of Gonzales Middle, Vice President Education Jaylen Wilson of Gonzales Middle, Vice President Membership Taylor Stewart of Dutchtown Middle, Vice President Public Relations Malik Winey of Dutchtown High, and Secretaries Tamiko Stroud of Donaldsonville High/ River Parish Community College and Nia Comery of St. Amant High/ River Parish Community College, Treasurer DaJhe' Sullivan of East Ascension High and Sergeant At Arms Noah Howard of Brusly High.

For more information about becoming a member contact Tamiko Garrison or Dr. Michelle Taylor at (225) 803-4042.