Lola Steinhauser Somers from Ryedale School wowed a packed audience at the Bury Theatre in the Royal Armouries, Leeds on July 6th and was announced the winner of The Yorkshire “Speak Out” Challenge! 2022. The Yorkshire “Speak Out” Challenge! 2021-22 is one of a number of regional public speaking programmes, delivered by the charity Speakers Trust in partnership with organisations across the country, making it the largest youth speaking competition in the world with over 35,000 young people taking part in this academic year alone.
This year’s Yorkshire Final judging panel comprised a mix of award-winning politicians, high-profile businesspeople and celebrities, all known for using their voices to make a change: Angela Sandhal: Director & Solicitor, Duncan Lewis Solicitors, Chris Roberts: Financial Reporting Accountant, 3i Group plc, Sameena Hussain: Theatre Director, Associate Director at Leeds Playhouse, Sharon Hamilton: Cllr Sharon Hamilton, Meanwood & Moortown, Deputy Executive Member, Shaun Harley: Director of Communications, Homes England.
Speaking directly to their audience, Lola said: “Young people are the ones who have to live with the consequences for longer”. Her upbeat and empowering speech was met with roaring approval from the audience and judges.
She closed her speech with a compelling appeal; “It is time that our voices are heard!”.
You can watch Lola’s winning speech in full here:
Shaun Harley, Director of Communications at Homes England said: “Helping young people to make their voice heard is more important than ever. This is a brilliant programme.”
Lola scooped up a winning trophy and a £50 voucher, as well as a framed certificate. When asked how she felt on becoming Champion, Lola said: “I was shocked when they announced I was the winner! The whole process has really empowered me; getting up on that stage and looking into the audience, feeling heard like I had a voice ready to face the world. I’m incredibly grateful for this whole experience and opportunity. I really enjoyed getting to know the other contestants and hearing the range of inspiring speeches. I had butterflies backstage and just couldn’t wait to get on the stage and share my passion for political action.”
Runner-Up was Amelia Tazarab Khan, Feversham Academy with her speech entitled The Children of the Seas, and third place was awarded to Vrati Desai from The North Halifax Grammar School for their thought-provoking speech on feminism.
The Yorkshire “Speak Out” Challenge! is designed and delivered by Speakers Trust and is funded and supported by 3i to encourage 14- and 15-year-olds to develop public speaking and communication skills as well as build self-esteem and confidence. Only in its first year, over 1700 young people in state schools across Yorkshire took part in the challenge.
During the academic year, each school has received one free one-day workshop in public speaking and communication skills. The student’s confidence in speaking to an audience, without notes, is measured at the beginning and at the end of the day. During 2021-22, 81% of students have increased their confidence to stand up and talk to a group of people.
Russell Findlay, CEO of Speakers Trust said: “Our latest research shows that more than half of young people don’t feel their voices are heard. This is why the “Speak Out” Challenge! is so important and why we at Speakers Trust are so grateful for the support we get from all the teachers and our partner 3i. The young people did a great job in sharing their ideas on really important subjects and I am sure that their friends, parents and carers in the audience were incredibly proud of their courage to speak out.”
Kathryn van der Kroft, 3i’s Communications Director added, “The quality of the speeches was exceptionally high at the Yorkshire Final and it was fantastic to see all the young people expressing themselves so eloquently in front of the audience and their peers”.