A student from Newcastle has won a prestigious award for delivering a passionate speech condemning the need for foodbanks and decrying ‘sinful social structures.’
Clare Aspray, who is a Year 13 student and head girl at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, Newcastle, won first prize in the final of the Catenians public speaking contest, which was held at the Manchester Conference Centre in September.
She chose the topic ‘Is it time to close food banks?’ for her winning speech, beating 10 other finalists aged 16 to 18, who had travelled from across the UK to compete in the contest.
Clare explained the reasoning behind her choice of topic.
“Catholic Social Teaching directs us to do what we can to make a change in society in order to make it a more just world,” she told the Universe.
“But we risk ignoring the call to solidarity, part of which is the condemnation of sinful social structures.”
She discovered some ‘shocking’ facts about food banks and decided something needed to be done.
“Around the time of writing it, there were more and more shocking statistics about food bank usage coming out, which really riled me up,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe we had literally millions of food packs being handed out in every part of the country, but particularly where we are in the North East.
“Then I found out that food bank data only began in 2008, so, in less than 15 years, we’ve managed to normalise food banks to the extent that thousands rely on them every week in order to feed themselves.
“I wanted to make people question why we could tolerate any need to have them in the first place.”
Other speeches in the final of the Catenians event included ‘Freedom is never more than one generation to extinction’ and ‘Eccentrics will succeed in life’.
Clare spoke of her happiness at the victory, whilst acknowledging the strength of the competition.
“The other contestants were inspiring, and I was fascinated by all the different topics they covered – one girl started her speech about ‘Eccentrics will do well’ in Klingon, which I thought was very witty,” she said.
“I feel really happy to have won, but I also feel so lucky to have been a part of the competition, and for meeting other young people who enjoy public speaking.
Catenians president Roger Lillie presented Clare with her winner’s trophy, along with £200 prize money and a further £100 for her school, which she intends to use to hold an in-school public speaking competition for girls in Years 7 to 12.
“For me, that’s a perfect outcome, because it means other girls might get inspired to use their voices for good,” she said.
Roger Lillie recently wrote in the Universe about the ‘exceptional’ standard of the speeches. “The standard of the presentations was high, their arguments strong and the range of subjects impressive,” he said.
Sacred Heart headteacher Suzanne Howell spoke of her happiness at Clare’s victory and called her ‘a great role model.’
“We are so very proud of Clare and her public speaking achievements.
“Clare is currently one of our head girls, and already a great role model to our 1,400 students here at Sacred Heart Catholic High School.
“Clare’s achievement has inspired our public speaking and debating extra-curricular groups, and we have lots of girls who would like to follow in her footsteps.”
Clare has ambitions to continue public speaking, both now and at university.
“As Head Girl, I have lots of times that I need to speak in front of others, and being able to do it with confidence is so helpful,” she said.
“If there’s any opportunity again, maybe at university, I would love to take part, as this experience has boosted my confidence.”