A Croydon student is now just one step away from the Grand Final of the UK’s largest youth public speaking event due to take place at the West End next July.

15-year-old Thanai Ollivierre from Riddlestown Collegiate was crowned winner of the Regional Final of the Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge which took place at Oasis Academy Coulsdon on March 7, 2024.

Over 30,000 Year 10 students (14-15 year olds) in over 500 state schools in London and Essex take 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.

Thanai Ollivierre was crowned Regional Champion, with a powerful speech titled Decolonising Healthcare.

In her speech, Thanai talks about changing healthcare by getting rid of the effects of colonisation. 

She says we need to acknowledge and address the unfairness and prejudices that exist in the system. 

The goal is to create a future where everyone, no matter their race, is treated equally with kindness, understanding, and good healthcare.

Thanai said: "Shocked. So blessed. I want to try and create change with my message."

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

Magdalene Adenaike, Founder/CEO of Music Relief Foundation

Shawnee Nash, Croydon Civil Registrar and Speak Out Challenge Alum

Davina Brown, Race Equality Champion and Pride of Croydon Winner 2022 

Jason White, Senior Admissions and Appeals Officer, Dunraven Educational Trust

William Burton, Learning & Development Consultant 

Zayd Rafique, Student at Riddlesdown Collegiate and 2023 Regional Final Runner Up

Runner-Up title went to Chloe Unaka, representing Coombe Wood School, with a speech about challenging the beauty norms, and Third Place went to Rachel Eson-Benjamin from Coloma Convent Girls' School, with a speech titled When they see Us.

Thanai 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.

Previous winners of the Grand Final have gone on to sell their businesses for six figures, act in Hollywood and in critically acclaimed projects, become influencers and public speakers.

These include actors Jamie Flatters and Idris Sobande, entrepreneur Tim Armoo, and writer Poppy Noor.