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Speaking up . . . St Kevin’s College pupil Rhea Ratgali (17) has come first in the Lions Clubs of New Zealand Young Speechmaker Contest district heat.

Excelling at speech contests is becoming a trend for Rhea Ratgali.

Earlier this year, Rhea was named a national semifinalist at the 2021 Race Unity Speech Awards in Auckland.

More recently, she won the Lions Clubs of New Zealand Young Speechmaker Contest district heat.

The heat was held in Oamaru last month, and Rhea (17) spoke about some of the issues faced by refugees and migrants when they moved to New Zealand – something she did not feel was addressed often enough.

“[New Zealand] needs migrants . . . it would be hard to run [the country] without them,” she said.

After the first round, competitors had one minute to improvise a speech about “what the world needs right now”.

Rhea spoke about how the world needed love, support and encouragement, especially in the wake of Covid-19.

Compared with the rest of the world, New Zealand was relatively safe, she said.

This was not the same story for her relatives in India, from where her parents had migrated before she was born in New Zealand.

It was important for the community to be appreciative, welcoming and supportive of one another, she said.

Rhea certainly felt supported when the Waitaki Multicultural Council sponsored her journey to Auckland for the Race Unity Speech Awards.

“It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Rhea would travel to Wellington to compete at the Young Speechmaker Contest national final in August.

She could choose to present the same speech or write a new one.

Leaning towards the latter, Rhea would expand on her impromptu speech about Covid-19.

After the finals she would continue to focus on completing the final year of her Speech New Zealand public speaking and communication diploma.

Wanting to do something “useful” with her diploma, Rhea would either study speech therapy or first year health sciences at the University of Otago when she left St Kevin’s College.