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Unique Toastmasters event held at library draws wide range of speakers

Sharon Sullivan
ssullivan@gjfreepress.com
Science writer and Ignite participant Christie Aschwanden of Cedaredge talks with 18-year-old Lisa Gwyn, who also spoke at the event held Nov. 16 at the library.
Photos by Sharon Sullivan / Free Press | Free Press

GJ Toastmasters clubs

Grand Junction Sayre’s Toastmasters

Meet at: St. Mary’s Life Center, 2nd Floor, 1100 Patterson Road

Tuesdays at 7:10 a.m.

Contact: (970) 255-6712

Talk of the Town Toastmasters

Meet at: Grand Junction Business Incubator Center, 2591 Legacy Way

Thursdays at noon

Contact: 970 434-9918

Wild Mustangs Toastmasters

Meet at: Veterans Administration Medical Center, 2121 North Ave. #3204

Mondays at 4:45 p.m.

Contact: 970-241-1192

Eighteen-year-old Lisa Gwyn captured the audience’s attention immediately when she said, “I’m the product of a family secret kept for many years.”

Gwyn was one of a dozen people who signed up to deliver short speeches at a Toastmasters-sponsored “Ignite” event at the Central Library Nov. 16. Sixty people attended the free public speaking exercise held in the library’s new community room.

Participants spoke on a wide range of topics for exactly five minutes, while slides projected on a screen rotated automatically every 15 seconds. The challenge was to say your piece succinctly and powerfully in the time allotted.

Local radio personality Mackenzie Dodge spoke about geocaching — a real-world, outdoor treasure hunt using GPS devices. Players need to be sensible where they hide their loot: “One guy got in trouble for snooping around a bank,” she said, causing the audience to chuckle.

Fruita artist Mary Hertert related a fanciful parable she wrote, with illustrations by fellow artist Vera Mulder. The story ended surprisingly and aptly with the message “Support Creative Arts in our Schools.”

Ignite’s sponsor, the Grand Junction Sayre Toastmasters Club, recently held a youth leadership conference — an eight-week public speaking course for youth. One of the graduates, 13-year-old Colby Raley gave a speech at the Ignite event that encouraged listeners to “live life to the fullest,” and “don’t let fear control you.”

The other youth leadership graduate, Lisa Gwyn, talked honestly and openly about the father who she resembles and from whom she inherited a sense of humor. Her parents divorced when she was 2, and when it came out that her father was gay, her mother became “homophobic” and passed on fears to her daughter.

“I told him at 8, I wouldn’t kiss him good night. I was terrified of disease,” she said. “The relationship deteriorated. He started drinking.”

As a teenager, Gwyn spiraled downward herself — quitting school, piercing her face, drinking. Both father and daughter are sober now, and reconciled.

“My dad is a great person. He’s the coolest person I know,” said Gwyn, who has been accepted into college where she plans to study sociology.

“I have an open heart. I love everybody equally,” she ended her speech.

Joe Higgins, executive director of Partners of Mesa County, and his junior partner Rogelio Cabellero together gave a powerful five-minute speech about being a mentor to youth.

Higgins quickly relayed a story of how as a child he was given a mentor after his father died.

“He (the mentor) gave me a Swiss Army knife that I still carry to this day,” Higgins said. “One of the things he talked to me about was to grow up to be a benevolent person — that wishes people well.

“That’s what Partners is — wishing well to a child; giving a door to move forward.”

Paonia scientist Johanna Rochester elicited laughter from the audience with her title slide “Is Your Shower Curtain Making You Fat?”

Rochester spoke about man-made chemicals in everyday products that disrupt human hormones.

There are actually chemicals in the environment called “obesogens” that mess up people’s metabolism, she said.

“I’m in the sciences; a lot of presentations I go to are (dry) so I thought this (Ignite event) would be fun to see what people are passionate about,” she said.

Some came Saturday not to talk, but to listen.

Nancy Keddy, who attended with two friends, said she looked at the Ignite website after seeing the library event mentioned in a newspaper.

“It looked like it might be a fun afternoon,” she said. “I enjoyed it. I was really impressed with the quality of all of them.”

Hundreds of five-minute Ignite talks have been given around the world since the event was created in Seattle in 2006. Since then, thriving Ignite communities have popped up in New York City, Portland, Baltimore, Denver, Boulder and internationally.

Bill Frazier, a member of the Wild Mustangs Toastmasters Club, ended the session with a speech “Conquering Your Fear” of public speaking by joining Toastmasters.

“Join, and never again will you be afraid to get in front of a microphone,” Frazier told the audience.

Well, it may still be a little nerve-wracking, but at least you’ll be able to do it without fainting.


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