A Sutton student is just one step away from the Grand Final of the UK’s largest youth public speaking event, scheduled to be held at the West End next July.

15-year-old Sophia McCart from Wallington High School for Girls in Sutton was crowned winner of the Regional Final of the Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge which took place at Wilson's School on Monday, March 4.

Over 30,000 Year 10 students in over 500 state schools in London and Essex took part in the annual event, hosted by the UK’s leading public speaking and communication charity, Speakers Trust and funded and supported by the Jack Petchey Foundation.

Sophia McCart was crowned Regional Champion, with a powerful speech titled Take Care Of Today.

In her speech, Sophia tells people to focus on the present, be open to change, and follow their passions. 

She says it's okay to change your life goals as you grow, and that the best decisions are the ones that make you happy right now.

Sophia said: “I’m just so grateful that I won and I think everyone else here did such an amazing job, everyone was just so strong and deserves this so much, their speeches were amazing."

Her speech caught the eyes and ears of the expert judges, including: 

Micheal Omoniyi,  Speak Out Challenge Alumnus and award-winning social entrepreneur.

Simon Breeze, Chief Executive of Community Action Sutton. 

Patrick Ebbs, Independent Consultant.

Manny Gaskin, award winning architect, artist and poet.

Anita Maullin, Chief Executive Volunteer Centre Sutton.

Samia Tossio, vocalist and presenter.

And Samuel Pemberton, a student at Wilson's School and the 2023 Regional Final Runner Up.

Sophia now proceeds to the online semi-finals with just 37 other regional champions, before the final 15 are selected for the Grand Final, taking place at the prestigious Cambridge Theatre on July 8.

Runner-Up title went to Mikołaj Radosz, representing Wallington County Grammar School, with a speech titled Space Travel - It's Now or Never! and third place went to Neil Gupta from Wilson's School, with a speech about resilience. 

Micheal Omoniyi, judge of the evening and Alum of the Speak Out Challenge programme, presented the awards and said: "The quality this year was so high.

“Everyone bought their A game, they all bounced back really well when things didn't go their way. 

“And ultimately, I think some of them were able to combine really purposeful, meaningful speeches with scale as well. 

“So I love that they all said something that was important. And they got the crowd really engaged as well — all of them — so I'm just super, super proud and happy for everyone."