Free public speaking, finance programs offered


This summer, area teens will have an opportunity to master transformative skills that are so often associated with success in life. Thanks to the support of the Ponte Vedra Beach Toastmasters Club and the link, two free programs will be held: the Summer Youth Leadership Program and Teen Money Matters.

 In the Youth Leadership Program, students ages 12-19 will hone their public speaking skills. Along the way, they will build their self-confidence, learn to think on their feet, conquer their fear of speaking before an audience and discover what it takes to become a leader.

The adult adviser is Chris Engl, president of the Ponte Vedra Beach Toastmasters Club. Working with him will be Aaron Raju, Beata Engl and Connie Quinlan.

Students will complete four prepared speeches, practice impromptu speeches and take roles in the proceedings. They will also learn how to evaluate others’ presentations and how to receive others’ evaluations.

They will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. on eight consecutive Wednesdays, June 5 through July 31.

In Teen Money Matters, students will learn how to earn money, manage it like a pro and master the basics of investment. They will be instructed and supported by a team of knowledgeable volunteers including Kent and Laura Irwin, former CFO Kevin Carney and Daryle Barnard.

The students will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. on eight consecutive Tuesdays, June 4 through July 30.

All sessions will be held at the link, 425 Town Plaza Ave. in Nocatee. To learn more about these programs and how to sign up, email

After these summer programs run their course, teens may want to join the Ponte Vedra Gavel Club as it reconvenes for the year. The club builds on the skills learned in the Youth Leadership Program and is much like the Toastmasters, except it’s for anyone under the age of 18.

Before it was paused for the summer, the club met from 7 to 8 p.m. each Monday. Going forward, the actual meeting times may depend on student schedules.

In the future, organizers are looking at possibly launching a practical life skills program.

These programs grew out of a pilot that Chris Engl and other local Toastmasters initiated last year with the support of his church. It was an instant success, with 23 students completing the program.

“We saw such incredible growth in these young men and women!” Engl said.

When he wanted to expand upon the program, Engl met Raghu Misra, co-founder of the link, who offered use of his facility.

Engl worked for more than 20 years on Wall Street before he felt a calling to make a change. He left his career and became involved in the creation of a classical academy in St. Johns County. He became active in the Ponte Vedra Toastmasters Club in 2019, which led to the creation of these new programs.

According to Engl, the goal is to create the leaders of tomorrow by “offering the skills and abilities needed for them to become the best versions of themselves.”