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Young Achiever: McKenzie-Kohl’s gift of gab

Talk of the town: McKenzie-Kohl Tuckett with her winnings from the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Competition last month in Toronto (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

The gift of the gab has served McKenzie-Kohl Tuckett well.

The 15-year-old Warwick Academy student will take up a key role as Premier of Bermuda’s Youth Parliament when it convenes on Wednesday.

McKenzie-Kohl’s flair for oratory also won her high marks at the International Independent Schools Public Speaking competition last month in Toronto, Canada.

She said: “I went in just wanting to do my best and enjoy the moment.”

She credited her mother, Keechia Tuckett, for teaching her every day on the way to school to “always do what I love and enjoy each moment”.

McKenzie-Kohl, who is considering a career in law as well as politics, came out top in the under-16 category in the Canadian competition, third in dramatic interpretation and ninth overall.

McKenzie-Kohl and fellow students An Mei Daniels and Melissa Weeks were among the 160 to attend this year at St Clement’s School in Toronto.

She said her ninth position was “one of my greatest moments — I almost wanted to cry”.

McKenzie-Kohl added: “These students in Canada are competing in public speaking and debate almost every other week. It’s not something I get exposed to — we have competitions in Bermuda once a year.”

She said: “Getting these places showed me it’s not a matter of where you come from. It shows that if you have drive, passion and determination, it really will pay off.”

McKenzie-Kohl could see her progress from her first time at the competition in 2017 in Winnipeg.

She said: “None of that could have been possible without the coaching from my English teacher, Stefanie Sinclair.”

Contestants are paired with students from other schools and get three topics to debate with only 30 minutes to prepare.

The topics were whether doctors should make final decisions over parents in children’s medical treatment, followed by a debate about fines for companies that cause pollution and one on curtailing advertising aimed at children.

McKenzie-Kohl’s public speaking has run alongside her time in Bermuda’s Youth Parliament.

Her interest was sparked at the 2017 General Election, when she volunteered at the polling station for St George’s West.

McKenzie-Kohl, from St David’s, said: “I’d never done anything like that before.

“It was a great experience — I got to see first-hand how the voting system runs.”

She joined the Youth Parliament, which sits in the House of Assembly’s chamber, to learn more about Bermuda and young people.

McKenzie-Kohl said: “Having a voice is important to me, and Youth Parliament allows for that voice.” The Year 11 student added: “I also wanted the opportunity to participate in debate and enhance my public-speaking skills.”

The Youth Parliament delegates come up with their own motions to debate in their weekly sittings from 4pm to 6pm on Wednesdays.

McKenzie-Kohl said the first debate of the new session, on November 14, was “open to anyone”.

She added that young people could get involved by attending and registering their interest.

McKenzie-Kohl said: “This year we want to push debating motions that relate to the youth and representing young people.”