Thank you for having me here and welcome to the state finals! I’m sure that we’re about to hear some amazing speeches so I’ll try to keep this short.
But before we do get cracking, I’d like to share a story or two about PESA.
The very first time I came here for PESA was in year ten. Rather than boring you with the details of how I went—it was pretty bad—I’d like to tell you about a conversation I had after the competition.
That conversation was with the runner-up. She was a year twelve at the time, an incredible student and had just given an absolutely killer speech. So year ten Travis was, well, he was in awe.
After the final was done and I’m feeling pretty sad and sorry for myself, she comes up to me to tell me that I’d done a really good job. Initially, I thought she was just being polite, but then she keeps talking to me.
For ten minutes we talked. And it was during those ten minutes that I got some of the best advice and encouragement that I’d ever received. She made me promise that I’d try again at PESA the next year. She gave me some brilliant advice about VCE, advice that I desperately needed. And she also gave me a heap of information about the Kwong Lee Dow scholarship at the University of Melbourne, which I did apply for and did get thanks to her.
Post year 12, I’ve been lucky enough to get a couple of jobs because of PESA. At the moment I work at the Geelong College as a public speaking coach. Aside from the financial benefit, of course, working with the students there has been absolutely incredible. There truly is no better feeling than seeing your students smash it out of the park.
For me, PESA has been a fantastic experience. I owe a scholarship, thousands of dollars worth of work and a lot of confidence to this competition. Even more importantly, I’ve met some absolutely incredible people here, many of whom I still call friends. Indeed, I met one of my closest friends in this very room.
I’ve shared some of my stories today to hopefully convince the six of you in front of me that no matter the result today, you’ve all won.
Obviously, there will be only one of you who takes home that trophy, but compared to what you will gain in confidence, in friendship and perhaps even in finances, that trophy is just a chunk of glass. Each of you is bloody fantastic for making it this far. So relax, enjoy yourselves and most of all make sure you come back with something more than a win or a loss.
On that, good luck to each of you and let the Hunger Games begin!