WHY WE STARTED
Let’s take it back to grade 4. A time where young Max had many fears, I hated the dark, I was scared of our household vacuum, and since I was a bigger kid, the scale was my enemy. However, there was one thing I was especially scared of, public speaking.
I remember my first class presentation… I avoided eye contact with my teacher. “Please don’t call on me,” I thought to myself. My palms were completely soaked. It was dead silent. Shake shake shake. The teacher pulls out a small wrinkled slit of paper. “Max you are up.” My stomach sank. I took a deep breath, grabbed my cardboard sundial and walked up. I stood at the front of the room, in my Costco Reeboks and an oversized polo. I remember a wrinkled balloon stuck on the ceiling of the classroom. The smell of crayons. The brown 3 prong folders. “Mmmy N-Name I-Is Max and My P-p-product is the sundial.” The kids were whispering, making fun of my stutter, or at least I thought they were.
It was a grade 4, history class. We were supposed to research a medieval product and present it as if we were in a 15th-century market. Funny thing, I actually found my USB stick, where I saved my PowerPoint so I could project on the school smartboard. My slogan for the project was “Let’s tell time with the shine”.
“I recommend that Max should go to a speech therapist. His communication skills are behind and his stuttering is preventing him from achieving success in this class.”
- Max's Grade 4 History Teacher
That same history teacher said, in a parent-teacher interview, “I recommend that Max should go to a speech therapist. His communication skills are behind and his stuttering is preventing him from achieving success in this class.” The world went silent. Just a few seconds ago, I was smiling with my parents, at a miniature desk as the teacher applauds my phenomenal creativity. Now, all I can think about is the chatter of the kids in that classroom and the wrinkled balloon on the ceiling. I zone out to my sweaty hands, my shaky legs, my stuttering.
As time went on, I slowly grew out of my fears. I went trick or treating by myself at night. I realized the vacuum only sucked up dust. And I eventually got taller and slimmer. I also started having weekly meetings with a speech therapist. S-Slide. MMiddle. Smoooth. Week by week, my stuttering got better. However, I still hated public speaking.
It took many class presentations to get to where I am today. I had months worth of meetings with my speech therapist, I practiced a crap ton and I also put myself in seemingly uncomfortable situations like debate tournaments or MUN conferences. It wasn't until years later when I discovered a passion for public speaking.
In January of 2020, we USG. A program dedicated to empowering youth to find their inner voice. United Speakers was built to help the kids who were shy. The kids who had a stutter. The kids who were like me.