How does a TNKR refugee end up on stage giving a speech?

Step 1: Refugee applies for TNKR

Step 2: TNKR co-directors Eunkoo Lee and Casey Lartigue interview the refugee about goals and desire for joining the program. Some students choose Track 1 (English study), some choose Track 2 (Public Speaking), some others do both Tracks.

Step 3: Refugee participates in an orientation session with other refugees joining or rejoining.

Step 4: Refugee attends a Matching session choosing coaches.

Step 5: Refugee begins studying with coaches.

Step 6: TNKR is offered a speech opportunity, we offer opportunities to refugees who then apply for the opportunity.

Step 7: Refugee then works with coaches to get prepared for actual speech opportunity.

For some, there are additional steps, such as Youngmin Kwon or another TNKR volunteer translating the refugee’s speech from Korean to English in order to keep the speech as authentic as possible. We often have TNKR volunteer editors to then check the content.

By the time the speakers go on stage, they would have had opportunities to practice with coaches. I have seen some cases of refugees connected with other organizations asked to give speeches with absolutely no preparation, the result being rambling and unfocused speeches. Some of the refugees seemed to be kicking themselves. With TNKR, they would have been able to work with speech coach mentors who help them with grammar, pronunciation, delivery, and other basic speech techniques so they can give high quality speeches, and feel good about it.

We require coaches and refugees to share the various versions of the edited documents to prevent any unprincipled coaches from adding their own ideas or making it their own speeches.

This photo is from a session with Hyeongsoo, a refugee in TNKR who will be giving a few speeches in the UK. Jennifer helped him with pronunciation, going line by line, correcting every mispronounced word.

A few minutes ago, another coach, Giles, sent a recording of the speech, in a proper gentlemanly British accent, so that Hyeongsoo would be able to copy the pronunciation and flow.


Earlier today TNKR Special Ambassador Cherie Yang dropped by the TNKR office. It is incredible, she will be giving a TEDx Talk in the UK in a few weeks. Professor Tony Docan-Morgan has been helping us sharpen up Track 2. When it comes to public speaking and communication, he knows. It has been his life for the past 15 years, he has been teaching communication at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse.

Cherie has been with us for two years, I have been able to witness and be a part of her incredible transformation as a public speaker. She was reluctant at first, but her confidence now is incredible, she doesn’t passively wait for coaches and others. She has her own ideas about what she wants to communicate.

Not every refugee is ready to open their identities to the public. And that’s fine with us! We have had some refugees who have joined Track 2 so they can learn about public speaking but with no intention of ever giving a speech. Others join with the goal of eventually giving public speeches, but don’t want to open up their identities just yet.

Mark is one of her coaches, he is a volunteer who has been part of both tracks, has donated to TNKR, and also encouraged his friends to donate. He has retired after having had a long professional career in the USA, TNKR has become one of his hobbies.

Here is another refugee who seeks to remain anonymous. We have developed a number of activities and speaking opportunities for refugees who want to learn public speaking without opening themselves up to scrutiny. She participated in one of our big events recently. She got great feedback from TNKR senior fellow Tony Docan-Morgan. He pulled double duty today, giving feedback to both this refugee and Cherie.


We were even visited today by the main organizer of the recent TEDx that Eunkoo Lee and I spoke at a month ago.


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