Nick Hart and John Baxter were initially connected with Blue Ridge Elementary through the RayFriends program. When they asked Principal Danielle Miles what she needed for her students, she mentioned a need for help with speaking skills. She saw this as something that would benefit the school and the students for a lifetime.

Nick and John began working with students a few months ago and have already seen significant improvement. Students have grown in their ability to spot speaker errors, such as not to turn one’s back to the audience or block line of sight. They are learning key tips for good public speaking: proper posture, how to engage an audience, how to capture the attention of your audience, and more.

Fourth and fifth grade students meet with John and Nick each Wednesday to prepare the monthly student assembly. They review the month’s agenda and assign speakers to each section. The men encourage the students to share their ideas for the assembly, rather than arrive with their own idea of how the assembly could go. The week after the assembly is a time for feedback, where students share what went well and what could improve for the next month.

The students clearly enjoy their time and are already showing signs of growing from the experience. Within a few meetings they were showing interest in John and Nick simply because they showed up to help them. They talk about life beyond their speaking preparation and see the benefit of having mentors in their lives.

Nick talks freely about opportunities to get to know the students and the benefit of working with a partner – if one is unable to attend they do not have to cancel the weekly session. These men are making a significant impact on our community with just a few hours each week. If you would like to know more about this and other community outreach opportunities, contact Donna Bruce.