St Mary’s College captain Hollie Bennett won the public speaking section of the Lions Youth of the Year district competition on Saturday night, with Quirindi High School’s Molly Owen the overall winner.

Molly Owen tested positive to COVID during the week, however, the Lions Youth of the Year convener Neville Adams was able to organise a zoom meeting with the judges to allow her to compete.

The five judges were impressed with Molly’s poise and confidence in the face of difficult circumstances, but she was up against tough competition in runner-up Charlotte Vinen (Macksville High), Ryan McAllister (Glen Innes High), and Hollie Bennett.

The students faced the judges for individual interviews before attending the dinner at night where they had two impromptu questions followed by their prepared five-minute speeches.

The 40-minute interviews included five predetermined questions on current affairs followed by an informal discussion around their interests and plans for their future.

The judges posed two questions to the students for the impromptu two-minute speeches, with the set speeches a topic of their own choosing. Each judge’s individual scores were added together at the end of the night to determine the winners.

Hollie Bennett delivered an insightful speech on ‘lessons we can learn from history’ quoting Winston Churchill’s famous words “A nation that forgets its past has no future”.

Charlotte Vinen spoke about the impact of urbanisation on the environment, while Ryan McAllister spoke about the challenges he faced in becoming  a dancer and the inspiration he gained from the story of Li Cunxin in the book Mao’s Last Dancer.

Competition winner Molly Owen had the judges enthralled with her speech about the dangers of “catfishing”, where a person pretends to be someone, they’re not by using social media to create a false identity, usually to defraud or scam someone else.

Molly Owen will now represent the district at the next level of judging in Maitland on April 9.

Lions Youth of the Year is designed to encourage, foster and develop leadership in senior students at an age when they are about to enter the fields of employment or higher education.

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