“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they - at some distant point in the future - will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely... because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.” ― Alvin Toffler
With 18,000 students (aged 14-15) from 500 schools across 37 regions, Jack Petchy's Speak Out Challenge is the world's biggest youth speaking event.
Candidates are trained in public speaking, and selected through the training day showcase to present their skills at a school assembly speak-off. If they do enough to impress, they represent their school at a regional final where 150 audience members gawk with utter surprise and amazement. It pleases me to say that on the 22nd March 2017, I was one of the gawkers!
Not only was it an honour to be invited to the Redbridge regional final, to be appointed a judge was a sheer delight! Alongside leading figures in the community, I watched 19 young people deliver speeches on a subject of their choosing. Topics ranged from politics, to body image; stereotyping to mental health; technology to tea! And all were delivered impeccably...some even left me with a lump in my throat.
As a member of the judging panel, I had the near-impossible task of marking each 2-3 minute speech on the quality of content, delivery and structure. Each learner could be awarded up to 60 points, and the temptation to give everyone a perfect score weighed down my spirit like led ballon. I sampled a taste of just how difficult public speaking can be when I had to face the audience, introduce myself, say a few words about Scribble Ink and a note on what I expected from each speaker. That sharp shock of a nerve-wrecking experience left me further in awe (extensive gawking) as I witnessed the magic unfold.
Only watching the videos in this SBlog will allow you to fully appreciate just how difficult it was to select a winner. However, one was chosen, and I'd like to congratulate Mia Olagbaju of Oaks Park High School for winning first place with a speech entitled ‘5 Senses’ - a perfectly-poetic-invigorating blend of substance, emotion, academia and philosophy.
In truth they were all worthy winners, but I have every faith that the regional finalists chosen will carry the torch of enthusiasm, intelligence and integrity (which shone so brightly in all of them) all the way to the West End, where they will compete in the grand final this July...to an audience of over 900 people!
When I delivered my speech on what I was expecting to see in the competitors, (at least I think I said this...I was pretty nervous and it was all such a haze), I put in a request for inspiration, innovation and substance. Each speaker exceeded my expectations and I can confirm that I was inspired by the innovative, textured and thought-provoking substance in each delivery.
I'd like to thank the Jack Petchy team for embracing Scribble Ink and inviting me to be a part of such glorious history.