Amador Valley High juniors Melody Huang, Alice Deng and Shilpa Krish launched the RSVP Campaign at the beginning of the summer after overcoming their own encounters with public speaking. The initials stand for Repertoire, Speech, Voice and Presentation.
As members of Amador's DECA club, they were inspired to share their knowledge and experiences with the community.
"We know that speech deliverance often causes a lot of anxiety and stress, and having been through that phase ourselves, we wanted to change that for our youth," explained Melody. "We wanted to start a campaign that would help others have the assertiveness to state their opinions in front of a live audience, hence our logo: Just Say It!"
From 4-6 p.m. every Monday at the Pleasanton Public Library, the founders, along with five other instructors, provide speech lessons for children and adults.
On average, the weekly lessons attract 25-30 students, the majority from elementary school. Due to popular demand, RSVP has added a separate adult class.
"There are consistently six or more adults," said RSVP instructor Arany Uthayakumar. "We've had a woman who goes to poetry readings, a dentist who gives seminars, a best man who is giving a speech at his brother's wedding in 10 months, a chemistry major who has to give presentations in class -- these people are all in different situations yet effective public speaking is very applicable to them.
"The same things apply to all of them. There really isn't a secret to public speaking; there are just a few things that everyone needs to know," she continued.
Each lesson covers topics like enunciation, posture, eye contact and volume. The adults are taught public speaking techniques in the form of lectures, while the children learn new skills and practice techniques through interactive games and exercises.
"I really want to be more confident and to get over being shy. We play games to build our confidence and they teach us good posture so that we can look more confident," said Arushi Avachat, who is in middle school.
At 4 p.m., the library's Community Room is silent. But after two hours of Jeopardy, reciting speeches with Skittles in their mouths, and posture contests, the quiet room has been transformed. The once-shy students stand in front of their peers smiling and confident as they read their assigned speeches.
"Before I came to RSVP I wasn't very good at public speaking. Now I'm better at it," said another middle school student, Jason Diwa.
RSVP attracts students from beyond the Pleasanton borders.
"Sometimes we have students from Dublin and Livermore. By holding RSVP at the public library, we attract outsiders who are not native to Pleasanton," Melody said.
She, Alice and Shilpa are currently in the process of launching a branch in San Leandro, and hope that it is the first of many locations in the Bay Area.
"San Leandro is our first addition, but we hope to be able to expand our campaign to Hayward next. We eventually want our campaign to be statewide," Melody said.
RSVP will continue to hold lessons through the remainder of the summer, and the organizers plan on continuing into the school year on weekends. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The most rewarding part of this campaign is seeing our youth's improvements and enthusiasm during each lesson," Melody said. "Every Monday there are new faces and old faces. We love interacting with the new members, but we also love seeing old clients. We are very happy to know that we've helped make a difference in our society and helped build confidence in our youngest generation."