Maleny High student wins youth achievement bursary

By Sonia Isaacs

STUDENTS from Maleny High School have once again participated in the Lions Youth of the Year (YOTY) competition, with Year 12 student Eliza Portas being declared overall competition winner.
Running since 1964, The Lions Australia’s Youth of the Year Award is a longstanding initiative encouraging leadership in Australian students approaching the end of their secondary schooling.
Celebrating qualities such as community and school contributions, public speaking, academic skills, and involvement in sports and culture, YOTY aims to nurture the next generation of outstanding young Australians.
Hosted by the Maleny Blackall Range Lions Club, the local competition held on Saturday February 24, saw three Year 12 students: Eliza Portas, Kelly Schofield, and Celine Xavier represent Maleny State High School.
The students were tasked with preparing a detailed application, completing a one-hour panel interview, responding to impromptu questions, and presenting their prepared five-minute speeches to an audience.
The first stage of the competition was through panel interviews, where the judges assessed, amongst other criteria, the general knowledge and philosophies of each entrant.
Their public speaking prowess, the second stage of the Roger Jackson Youth Achievement Award Bursary, was judged by mayoral candidate Wayne Parcell, community group advocate Paulette Steele, and Maleny Neighbourhood Centre coordinator Madonna Hampson.
Kelly’s prepared speech centered on being the influencer in one’s own life, encouraging everyone to focus on moments that bring people together. Celine spoke passionately about social change, cautioning against blind belief without fact-checking. Eliza advocated for reconsidering the voting age in Australia, believing that 16 and 17-year-olds should have a say in the country’s future.
Eliza was declared the public speaking winner and overall competition winner. She was awarded the $1,000 Roger Jackson Memorial Youth Achievement Bursary as part of her win.
Maleny Blackall Range Lions Club President said all three entrants were extremely knowledgeable and worthy.
“Eliza was an outstanding all rounder and a deserving winner. She is a credit to her parents and school,” Mr Hobson said.
Eliza will now progress to the next level of the competition scheduled for Sunday, March 17, at Mooloolah Valley Country Club. Maleny SHS Principal, Ms Deborah Stewart, said the entire school community was extremely proud of Eliza’s achievement.
“She, along with the other competitors from Maleny State High School, presented their impromptu and prepared speeches with conviction, poise and demonstrated genuine care for the local and global issues facing our youth,” she said.
“I acknowledge the courage and skill required to successfully compete in these types of speaking competitions. I wish Eliza all the best as she progresses through to the next level of competition.”