Harrogate student shines in global competition with a vision of making sure every child with a stammer is not left behind

The efforts of a remarkable Harrogate sixth former, who is a member of Action for Stammering Children’s youth panel, is making an impact internationally in a contest launched by ex-Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, and his wife, Wendy.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 5:03 pm
Ashville College sixth former Thomas Grattoni-May who is doing well in the Rise Challenge which seeks to identify talented young people from around the world who have the potential to use their talents to tackle the planet’s most pressing issues.

An Ashville College Sixth Former has reached the final stage of a global competition to find 100 rising stars who have the ideas and enthusiasm to help build a better world.

Launched by former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, and his wife, Wendy, in association with the Rhodes Trust, the Rise Challenge seeks to identify talented young people, aged 15 to 17, from around the world who have the potential to use their talents to tackle the planet’s most pressing issues.

Over the last six months, Thomas Grattoni-May has submitted 14 video responses to various challenges, as well as spending more than 50 hours developing his ‘big idea’ – a global speech and language therapy app – inspired by his stammering.

In reaching this stage, the 17-year-old, a member of Action for Stammering Children’s youth panel, has already won one thousand dollars and the opportunity to apply for funding for his big idea from various Rise Partners.

If chosen as one of the 100 winners, he will receive a lifetime of personalised support - including scholarships, mentorship, career services, and access to further funding to develop his ideas to benefit others, a prize value that could exceed $500,000 for each global winner.

As one of the 500 finalists, he now faces a grueling interview process to select the 100 Global Winners who will be announced in July.

Thomas said: “The competition has attracted thousands of entries from more than 166 countries, and when I received an email from the United States saying I had reached this stage, I couldn’t believe it. I nearly fell off my chair.

“The opportunity of this challenge and meeting new friends across the world has been so inspirational, it has already been life-changing for me.

“I know there are so many children who have not received the help that I have been so lucky to receive.

"My vision is to ensure that every child with a stammer has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and not be left behind.

“By uniting the numerous small charities, currently working in silo around the world, and bringing them together under one global umbrella, we can share resources and extend our reach and create a global stammering community.

“If we can prove the concept works for stammering, my idea could be replicated across numerous charitable sectors.

“All the people I have had the luxury to meet personally, albeit online, have been absolutely amazing and Rise have said, regardless of the outcome of the finals, they have lots more fascinating people for us to meet from various organisations.”

Those Thomas has met already include Charles Conn, a multi-sector CEO, investor, and best-selling author; American academic, psychologist, and popular science author, Angela Duckworth; and Salman ‘Sal’ Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy which has a mission of providing a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

Thomas added: “I have also made friends with so many like-minded candidates, from as far afield as Morocco, India, Palestine and Australia. The response to this competition in its inaugural year has been fantastic and in the years to come, Rise hope to expand the competition to hear from young people in the most far-flung corners of the world.

“Action for Stammering Children is also thrilled with my success in the competition, as with the possible backing of Schmidt Futures, we could really make a difference to change the subconscious bias associated with stammering, not just in the UK but further afield as well.

“What’s also exciting for me is the fact that Eric Schmidt has connections to American President Joe Biden, a famous advocate of stammering awareness.

"The charity is hoping to arrange for me and the rest of the Youth Panel to meet with him when he comes to the UK for either the G7 or COP26.”

Lucy Mullender, Director of Learning Support at Ashville College, said: “This is absolutely incredible news, and we are all extremely proud of Thomas and all his achievements to date.

“Whilst a stammer can hold many children and adults back, in Thomas’ case it’s just the opposite. His work with Action for Stammering Children has seen him become an inspiration for many other children, not just at Ashville, but now across the world.

“If he is chosen as one of the Rise 100 Global Winners, it will be simply amazing.”

Founded in 1877, Ashville College is a leading independent day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 3-18 years.

It is located in the North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate, and consists of Acorns Nursery Class and Ashville’s Prep School, Senior School and Sixth Form.

Ashville College is a member of the HMC, BSA, ISC, and NEASC, and an associate member of the Methodist Independent Schools Trust.

For more information about Ashville College please visit https://www.ashville.co.uk/

For more information about the charity, Action for Stammering Children, please visit www.actionforstammeringchildren.org

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