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“Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!” That was the message given by John Connolly in the Proposition team’s opening speech at the inaugural Legal & Compliance Summer Internship Program Student Debate ‘Increasing voter participation in UK General Elections’ held on Wednesday, 21st July 2010.
The event, which was the culmination of a four week internship programme at UBS, saw two teams of 3 students from Hackney Community College pitting their wits against each other, and the audience, on three areas of proposed electoral reforms:
* Reducing the voting age to 16
* Allowing non-UK citizens the right to vote
* Making voting compulsory
The students, many of whom had never spoken in front of such a large audience before, attended a series of training sessions as part of the programme on presentation skills, advocacy skills and negotiation skills. Alex Harrison, Compliance Officer at UBS, who helped put the students through their paces before the day, commented:
“At the beginning of the programme, most of the students were extremely nervous about the debate. It was a privilege working with them to build their confidence in public speaking and deliver speeches that, at the end of the day, rivalled those of the three main party leaders in the recent televised election debates.”
The other students from Hackney Community College were Joseph Adeniji, Aadil Ahmed, Sneh Brahmbhatt, Anthony Osei-Lawrence and Tiffany Thomas. One of those nervous students was Sneh:
“If you had asked me four weeks ago if I was looking forward to the debate, I would have laughed! When we had the first run through, I couldn’t keep still and was worried the audience would notice. However, when I stood up to give the final speech the rush of adrenalin I felt helped keep me going. Now I’m now looking forward to going back to Hackney College in the Autumn where I hope I get the chance to do debating again!”
Sneh, along with Anthony and Joseph, was part of the opposition team who won the audience’s vote for two out of the three proposed reforms thus vetoing extending the vote to non-UK citizens and making voting compulsory. Sneh also picked up the judge’s award for the best speaker in her team. Aadil picked up the award for the best proposition speaker and shared the Best Team Performance prize with team-mates John and Tiffany.
To win a place on the programme, the six students, who have just completed their AS level exams, went through a rigorous interview process back in April 2010.
Tayebeh Kazempour, Head of Financial Services and Administration from Hackney Community College, who was also one of the four judges at the debate, commented:“I was extremely impressed with our students at the debate. I couldn’t believe that most of them had never debated before, as they appeared so polished and confident! Speaking in front of such a large audience can be nerve-wracking to say the least, but the students pulled it off with aplomb.
The points they made were relevant and incisive. Well done!”
On the day prior to the debate, one of the other key projects the students were involved in as part of the programme, saw them directing a group of 40 UBS volunteers at Hackney City Farm in Haggerston.
The students, who were also responsible for planning the event ahead of the day, ensured the volunteers completed a number of tasks including fertilising fields, clearing land space of nettles, rubbish and rubble and painting benches.
Although the programme has officially ended, it doesn’t end there! One of the key aims of the programme is to encourage the students to maintain contact with the UBS staff through mentoring relationships.
Lauretta Nwadiegwu, one of the initial students on the programme back in 2005 who has just completed the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law, stated: “It is fantastic to see the programme continue to go from strength to strength. I have always been interested in law but my time at UBS encouraged me to pursue a career in the legal field and I would encourage any student who has the opportunity to form a mentoring relationship, to firmly grasp that chance with both hands”.