Pearl Barnes, 2016 National Effective Speaking Competition Winner

IMG_5577When I joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program five years ago, I had no idea how much it had to offer. I thought cadets was all about marching, uniforms, and molding future soldiers, but over the years I have come to realize there is so much more. In air cadets I have learned music, survival, and politics. I have learned how to canoe, how to teach, and how to fly. I have discovered skills I didn’t even know I had, including effective speaking.

The effective speaking program is not a well-known aspect of cadets (ironically, it seems people don’t talk about it much) but it may be one of the most useful skills you can ever have. Whether people like it or not, chances are almost everyone in this country will do some sort of public speaking in their lifetime. It could be a job interview, a school presentation, or a toast at a wedding. Public speaking is everywhere, and the cadet program not only gives you the opportunity to practice it, but the judges and coaches give feedback on how you can become a more effective speaker. Through competitions locally, regionally, provincially, and nationally, youth all over Canada are preparing themselves for whatever life may throw at them.

I am an air cadet in Saskatchewan, my name is Pearl Barnes, and in 2016, I competed in the National Effective Speaking Competition in Richmond, BC. Don’t be fooled though; I didn’t fly all the way to a city near Vancouver just to talk. For four days the eleven other competitors and I traveled around Vancouver and Victoria, taking tours, visiting museums and taking ferry rides. We tried familiar foods like burgers and pasta, and unfamiliar foods like sushi and bubble tea. We saw incredibly tall trees, towering mountains, and vast ocean waters. Easily my favorite part of this trip was when we “flew over Canada”. Inside a large building we were ushered into a movie theater-like row of chairs. When we sat down, the lights went out, our chairs lifted off the floor, and the enormous wall of a screen in front of us lit up with helicopter views of the most scenic bits of our country. With every cloud we passed through, we could feel it on our faces (literally, as we were sprayed with a fine mist of water). This “ride”, although being one of the highlights of the trip, was only one of many extraordinary activities we participated in during our stay.

This year, in the midst of all the fun excitement, I was awarded first place in the competition. This makes me unable to participate in any more cadet speaking competitions (as it seems competing against the national winner would be unfair). Because I can’t compete, I’m trying to ensure that people everywhere compete for me. I want everyone to know the things I know, and to feel as confident speaking in front of people as I do. I love effective speaking. Not only does it make me more confident teaching cadets in my home squadron, but I get this magnificent thrill as I step up to the podium and look out onto the audience. I get more comfortable every time I speak, but that thrill never goes away.

I love air cadets, I have experienced almost every aspect. I’ve played in bands, gone camping, organized dances, done drill, taught cadets, and gotten a pilot’s license. Out of all of that and more, effective speaking is one of my favorite cadet activities. Every time I go to a competition I not only get the thrill of speaking, I also get to meet new people and learn how to better myself. (They also give us snacks which is a good benefit). I can no longer do one of the things I love, but more cadets all across Canada can! You can experience the same joy and excitement I feel in front of people, and gain a skill that will help for years to come. Effective speaking is an incredible opportunity in an even more incredible program, and I highly recommend it.

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