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Young mind: Shine winner Alex Mortimer inspires a new generation

At the Shine Awards 2021, the recipient of the Terry Mansfield MBE Award for Tomorrow’s Talent was Alex Mortimer from Ibstock Place School, who won for her magazine ‘Young Minds’ which focussed on mental health.

This year, we invited Alex to return and address the ceremony and give out this year’s award.

Alex’s speech was inspiring and moving in equal measure. Read what she said, below;

 

Once upon a time, when I was younger but not that much shorter, given I stand at 5’1 today, I was struggling with my mental health. I wanted to feel better, so I turned, naturally, to reading. Hours and hours were spent devouring novels about characters going through similar struggles to me. These novels could have been my diary, though better written and less dramatic. I’m sure you know that moment when you read someone else’s thoughts and think, “That’s exactly how I think and feel, too”. Such writing makes you feel less alone, less lonely.

That’s why writing and reading are so important. The writer Paul Coelho once said that “Tears are words that need to be written”. Many of you sitting here today will recognise this. Magazines are motivated by tears. Personal articles but also articles dealing with wider, political issues arise from tears of anger, pain, frustration. And Coelho is right: these tears must be written, else we drown in them. That’s why Shine is so important. It gives young people like you and me the chance to write our tears, overcoming struggles and injustice with each stroke of our pen or tap on a keyboard.

I realised the power of words last year, producing our school magazine: The Young Minds Issue, which focused on mental health. As much of 2020/21 was spent in lockdown, we wanted to encourage our student journalists to document their own struggles and those of others too. Reading the magazine now, I am still so proud of the writers, artists and podcast contributors who explored issues such as body image in lockdown, insomnia and mental health stigma. Entering the Shine Media Awards meant so much to me because it gave our student journalists the ability to process their own difficulties, giving others that warm hug saying “I know what you mean”.

The most important skill that the Shine Awards helped me to develop was courage. Before Shine, I was often nervous using my own voice. I’d be that person in a group that always nods along in agreement, polite and careful not to offend. But by leading a team, writing articles and creating a magazine and podcast, I became braver and bolder, expressing my opinions and voice with more confidence and conviction.

Bravery and boldness are skills that you, as student journalists, possess. And skills we need today. We need young journalists like you to show courage in their criticism and exposure of human rights abuses in Ukraine, the overturning of Roe vs Wade, mental health stigma, inequality in local communities and problems with the education system.

I applaud you for your courage. I know that you will, with the skills you have learnt in creating your publications, continue to be bold and use your power to change the world. Your words are power. Your voice is power. When your words and voice are motivated by tears of passion, dedication and determination, about personal experiences or the experiences of other people, they become yet more powerful.

Amanda Gorman, in ‘The Hill We Climb’, writes:

‘For there is always light
if only we’re brave enough to see it,
if only we’re brave enough to be it’.

Your words are your light. They spark conversations, ignite fires of passion and kindle hope. I know that you are brave enough to see it.

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