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Public speaking class was a life-changing experience

I recently had the privilege of participating in the seventh session of the African Leadership Group’s Public Speaking class, which began this past February. I was compelled to take the class because I wanted to work on becoming a more polished, confident, and effective oral communicator.

Ironically, I come from a background as an educator and feel at home in a classroom full of pupils. But when it came to delivering a message of my own to a crowd, I suddenly faced crippling anxiety. Not only did this class help me to tackle those insecurities and grow as a speaker, it gave me immeasurable gifts that I never could have anticipated.

Our class was a very diverse group, hailing from countries all over Africa as well as the U.S. We all joined the class for various reasons. Some, like me, were from the U.S. and seeking an opportunity to hone our public speaking skills, while others were speakers of English as a second (or third, or fourth!) language, seeking to present themselves more confidently to native English speakers.

But in true ALG fashion, a spirit of camaraderie and support was quickly established among us all, regardless of our differences, and many became fast friends, mentors, and mentees. We became each other’s cheerleaders, celebrating our successes both in and outside of class, and eventually became comfortable offering constructive critiques to help each other grow as speakers.

Led by Madiama Mbaye, whom we affectionately referred to as “Professor,” we were immediately challenged to speak extemporaneously on topics of our own choosing. We then delved into various speaking-related topics like overcoming anxiety and dissecting the components of an effective speech. But every single class presented an opportunity to exercise our speaking chops, and we quickly learned that practice was indeed the best teacher.

The course was anchored by two cleverly chosen texts, Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret.” These books not only provided topics of discourse, but they also inspired many of us to practice the incredibly powerful Law of Attraction in our own lives.

When COVID-19 lockdowns and the eventual statewide quarantine hit, we were faced with the tough question of whether or not the class would continue. Luckily, by that time we had built up a community of learners who were determined to build on the momentum we had established and we unanimously agreed to continue meeting virtually. Upon graduating in August, we all shared a feeling of accomplishment despite the odds, committed to holding each other accountable to the goals we had shared, and were intent on carrying the spirit of the class to the next level.

As a graduate of the course and now a member of the ALG Leadership 101 class, I can’t possibly put the value of this incredibly unique experience into words. I’ve gained not only tools for personal and professional success and access to a distinguished network of local professionals, but I’ve also gained membership into a community of leaders that are more like family than associates.

I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who may be seeking a similar experience to consider taking the class without hesitation…it’s truly life-changing!

Tarsha Miller
Tarsha Miller is a 2020 graduate of ALG's Public Speaking class. She comes from an extensive background in secondary English education, but currently works for the African Community Center as Program Lead for We Made This, a refugee sewing instruction and empowerment program. As a handmade jewelry artist and small business owner, she is a passionate advocate for personal and economic empowerment through the creative arts and seeks to engage the wider community around these issues.

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