Tom Baldini Soapbox Challenge encourages student voices

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 6:22 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Houghton High School Junior Ian Evans was one of many speakers who took to the podium at the fifth annual Tom Baldini Soapbox Challenge at Kaufman Auditorium Monday afternoon.

10 students from four schools competed in the event sharing their thoughts on topics like reproductive rights, mental health in teens and gun control.

Event Organizer Blythe Raikko says she hopes the speeches introduced students to new ideas.

“This is a great event to bring everyone together and give our students a chance to hear different perspectives,” Raikko said.

Raikko says speeches for the event have three main requirements.

“What do they think is the biggest issue facing their community and why should people care about it and what can be done about it? It is a quick format, but it is really potent,” Raikko said.

Evans won the challenge by talking about his experience of being called homophobic slurs. He explained the sobering reality of the disproportionate mental health issues many in the LGBTQ+ community face.

“I am proud of myself for doing this because public speaking is not my thing, but I guess today it was,” Evans said.

He says although he was scared, he knew it was important to share his story.

“I was really vulnerable, and it was really scary,” Evans said. “I really hated giving that to my class, but I feel like it needed to be said.”

Evans won an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. where he will talk with lawmakers about his issue and promote large-scale change.