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It feels so good to be here, and to be part of the first ever OnSide awards.
I’ve been to lots of events in this building, but the energy here tonight is truly something special and of course I feel privileged to be part of this community, so thanks for having me!
All of this tonight would not be possible without the incredible network of like-minded organisations, who are united in showing young people a positive future.
It’s because of all of your efforts that 50,000 young people are getting access to such amazing experiences every single year.
And it is with real pleasure that I can tonight announce the newest member of the OnSide family – the schools’ mental health charity Place2Be.
Through a collaboration brought together by the City of London, Place2Be’s mental health services will become available in Youth Zones, starting with Future Youth Zone in London later this month.
This of course is fantastic news as sometimes a lack of mental fitness can be the biggest blocker to our own ability to succeed.
By understanding our own mental health as much as we do our physical health, by knowing what makes us thrive rather than just survive, we’ll be unlocking such incredible potential for ourselves and more young people up and down the country. So, for everyone involved in making this happen, thank you.
OnSide is an organisation that’s still young, but as everybody here knows, you should never underestimate the power and influence of youth.
When Greta started her climate change protest she was just 15 years old – one voice, with just one placard, sitting on her own outside the Swedish parliament. Many people (actually, I should say, many adults) dismissed her.
Yet today, millions upon millions of young people have joined her fight.
She may have been just one person at the beginning, but she had a belief, a mission, and a desire to do something not just for herself but for everyone, and now – the whole world is paying attention.
Whatever your dream – every country, every community, every school, every friendship group, every family needs their own Greta – someone who can lead the way, someone who is prepared to stand up for what they believe, and show how much they care for the people in their lives and the community around them.
OnSide is helping you be that person, helping you to unlock your potential and realise the difference that you can make.
A couple of years ago I asked a group of young activists who around them, who from their community, inspired them.
And one answer really stood out; they said – ‘how are we supposed to know which direction to go when we don’t have anyone’s footsteps to follow’.
Well – OnSide, you are providing those much needed footsteps for others to follow, whether you know it or not!
Whether you are an OnSide member, or have helped make OnSide possible, you’re helping pave the way for someone else. And this is a chance to celebrate that. A chance for you to see what you have achieved together, the difference you are making, and the role models you have become.
I know it’s not always easy.
I know there are times when it feels like just putting one foot in front of the other is a victory.
I know there will be weeks when you have to confront challenges, tackle demons, and face up to individuals who wish you harm.
And I know there will be times when the only horizon you can see, is tomorrow.
It can feel like all this talk of the future, and hope and optimism, and changing the world, will seem pointless.
So if – and when – it does; remember today, remember this moment….
This moment, when your friends at OnSide have your back, when they are lifting you up, and reminding you that anything is possible, and that you have what it takes to be a game changer.
There are people and communities out there in need of your support, who are craving role models like you, and I know you can do it – because I have seen it. I’ve seen the ripple effect one action can have on a whole community.
You are my inspiration when I need it.
Every time I meet someone from OnSide I meet someone who is ambitious for themselves but also for their entire generation, hopeful for the future of our planet, and committed to supporting others.
You have an amazing fire burning inside of you – full of potential, creativity, compassion, and authenticity.
You refuse to accept the status quo, and you show the world that no matter who you are, whatever your circumstances, or wherever you come from – everyone deserves the right to be heard – and everyone has the potential to succeed. And lead.
So, OnSide, thank you.
Have an amazing night”