DICKINSON — Students with developmental disabilities at Dickinson ISD are getting a crash course in public speaking while learning how to present themselves in a real-world environment.

Project SPEAK is a training program for student who want to become public speakers. Students will work to develop speaking opportunities to reach new audiences, beyond the developmental disability community. They will explore different presentation options for participants for whom a traditional speech may not be the most effective form of communication.

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities awarded a $124,999 grant for the first year of a statewide project by Imagine Enterprises to train individuals with developmental disabilities in public speaking.

“I am on the Project Advisory Council for Project SPEAK,” said Dickinson ISD Director of Special Programs Laurie Goforth. “When one of the other groups dropped out, we were asked if we wanted to participate, and we excitedly said yes.”

Students participating in the training are Larry Drummond and Cody Edgerton from McAdams Junior High and Anthony Cannatella, Victoria de la Garza, Serene Caudle and De Tauras Hopkins from Dickinson High School.

Project SPEAK gives students a chance to add important first-person voices to the public discussion about the wants and needs of people with developmental disabilities. It’s a unique chance for students to develop new skills and self-confidence to become powerful advocates for themselves and others.

During the training, each student was given a chance to give a speech and have it videotaped. The students picked their own speech topic about whatever they were interested in or wanted to tell about themselves. Later, the students watched their speech to learn ways they could have made it better.

“I really like learning about this stuff and giving speeches,” Edgerton said. “It’s a little scary sometimes when you get up in front of people, but it is how we learn. I never thought I would be able to do this, but this makes it easier.”

Goforth said, “These students will be creating a presentation for the school board in May and will be invited to do regional and maybe state level speeches. They have been working really hard the last two days to learn how to give a speech and on their presentations.”

TCDD is governed by a 27-member board, dedicated to improving the lives of more than 485,000 Texans with developmental disabilities. The council uses a variety of activities — such as grant projects, technical assistance, public awareness and leadership training — to enable people with disabilities to live and participate in the community.

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