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Meet Grand Finalist, Amelia McLean

17 Jun 2023

We are delighted to share that this has been the biggest year ever for Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge. Up to 30,000 students have been trained in over 500 schools across all of London and Essex.

Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge provides year 10 students in state schools across London and Essex with public speaking and communication training to increase their confidence, sense of agency and drive to make a difference in society.

During the academic year, over 500 schools have received a free one-day public speaking workshops for their students. The student’s confidence in speaking to an audience, without notes, is measured at the beginning and at the end of the day. During 2022-2023 76% of students have increased their confidence to stand up and talk to a group of people. At the end of the day, every school nominates one student to go on to a Regional or Digital Final, where they compete again other school finalists and their speeches are judged based on content delivery, structure and positive impact by a panel of esteemed judges. After going on to win the semi-finals, our 15 inspirational, articulate, and impressive speakers are now ready to present their speech to you!

We will celebrate the achievements of these awe-inspiring young people in the heart of London’s West End at Cambridge Theatre on Monday 10th July and crown the 2023 “Speak Out” Champion!

In no particular order, meet 2023 Grand Finalist Amelia McLean! 

Their speech ‘No One Is Pretty’ earned them and their school, The St Marylebone CofE School, first place in their Kensington, Chelsea & Westiminster Regional Final. Amelia wants everyone to feel a little bit happier with their bodies.  

We asked Amelia, what three items or people would you choose to take to a desert island and why? 

My best friend Scarlett because I know she’d find a way to lighten the mood. A really obnoxiously thick book- something I’ve always meant to read but never got around to it- like War and Peace. And then bug spray because I’d rather starve to death than face any desert island spiders.

What is your favourite saying or quote and why?

‘Light, the visible reminder of invisible light.’- T.S. Eliot. I’ve never fully understood what this quote means- something along the lines of there being more to life than meets the eye- but I still find it very beautiful. I don’t think we have to properly understand something to be able to appreciate it.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be and why?  

Vietnamese pho soup. My favourite food of all time. It’s warm and filling but light, refreshing and so flavourful. I don’t think I’d ever get sick of it.

What three top tips on life would you give a Year Seven student? 

Don’t stress about schoolwork or exams- they don’t define your worth. Find the things you enjoy and spend time on them- whether that’s a hobby or a person or a sport or whatever. I think it’s really important to discover the things you love to do. And take risks! You never know where joining that club, or that learning that instrument, or speaking to that person might lead you.

Why do you think it’s important for young people, like you, to share their stories?

Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s story is different. The more we can listen and learn about the experiences of others- especially those different to our own- the easier it becomes to build a kinder, more accepting world.

And finally, how would you like people to think / act differently from hearing your story?

I want the people who hear my speech to feel a little bit happier with their bodies. I want people to walk away thinking ‘Yeah, I am beautiful, even if I don’t look like everyone or anyone else.’ I think having those kind of feelings about yourself is so important. I also want people to realise the damage our media’s portrayal of beauty standards is doing to young people. I hope more people will start to recognise how destroying self-esteem issues can become- and how urgently important it is that we fight for media that teaches future generations the beauty of all bodies.

Watch Amelia‘s winning speech: