Perth Modern School student Mahek Aribenchi was recently crowned the winner of the Rotary 4 Way Speech Competition.
This is the first time since 2008 that a Perth Modern School students has won this prestigious and highly competitive speaking contest.
Mahek won a cash prize and three trophies; one for herself, one for Perth Modern School and one for the Rotary Club of Subiaco which sponsored her.
After a gruelling three rounds of competition, on the day of the final which was September 4, Mahek used a series of public speaking techniques to craft and present a six-minute speech on the topic ‘Down Syndrome Discrimination’ while integrating and analysing the values of the Rotary 4 Way Test.
Mahek said although preparing and improving each round was a tough and tedious process, it came with a lot of satisfaction. She said her goal was to profoundly touch the hearts of the audience and also inspire them to seek change in their perception of people with Down Syndrome.
In her grand final speech, Mahek asked the audience:
“Firstly, is it the truth? Put your hand up if you have a child or a younger sibling. Imagine, they tell you, tears rolling out their eyes, that no one wanted to play with them at lunch time, how would you feel? The pain we share is indescribable, unbearable, but think about those that face it every single day. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 74 per cent of children with down syndrome experience bullying regularly.”
“I am sick of being put in a box. Just because I attend an academically selective school doesn’t mean book-smart defines me! Similarly… people with down syndrome are not defined by incapable and flawed. Each one has unique talents that we must embrace but also acknowledge that their difficulties are no barrier to success. Motivating examples like Ellie Goldstein; a world class model, Tazia Fawley; an artistic treasure, and Steven Brandon; an accomplished actor, prove this fact. As a society, it is something we must encourage to dispel past prejudices, and inspire others with down syndrome to dream big, therefore cultivating goodwill in our community.”
When announced the winner, Mahek said it felt “unbelievable.”
“When my name was announced as the overall winner, I didn’t even register it at first. After I realised that this was actually happening, I felt shock, relief and yet absolute joy all at the same time! But more than anything I will never forget the expressions of pride on my parents and teacher’s faces.”
“I would like to extend a huge thank you to my parents for eternally supporting me and always listening to my practices and giving me feedback, Mrs Nicola Reilly at Perth Modern for her attention to detail, enthusiasm and motivation in helping me grow as a speaker, and the Rotary Club of Subiaco who was integral in assisting me in this program.”
Principal of Perth Modern School Mitchell Mackay said he was thrilled for Mahek as she had worked really hard and displayed level of maturity beyond her years in how she approached the topic.
“Mahek really threw herself into this competition, seeking advice, striving to be her best and giving it her all,” Mr Mackay said. “Perth Modern is very proud of her.”