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Last month, I had the privilege of being invited to speak at Old Trafford in Manchester by the Manchester United Foundation and Schmidt Futures. I had the opportunity to share my experiences with a group of 15-17 year-olds from schools around Greater Manchester who were applying to the Rise program. My goal was to inspire these young individuals and to encourage them to never give up on their dreams, no matter what obstacles they may face along the way.

I discussed my personal journey with stammering, which affects over 70 million people worldwide. Growing up, I faced bullying and rejection from classmates and teachers who did not understand my condition. This often resulted in feelings of loneliness, as I was rarely invited to social events and struggled to communicate effectively with others.

However, I was lucky enough to receive support from Action for Stammering Children. With the help of speech and language therapists, I was able to improve my speech and gain confidence in myself. I even had the chance to run a workshop in Year 7, raising awareness about stammering and dispelling common myths surrounding the condition. By speaking openly about my own experiences, I hoped to encourage others with stammers to be more open and to feel less alone.

The reception from the students at Manchester was truly incredible. After my presentation, a student approached me to tell me that he also had a stammer, and the bus driver asked me for information on where to find support for her granddaughter. The impact that my story had on these young individuals was truly humbling.

Following my presentation, I had the opportunity to meet with the CEO of the Manchester United Foundation, John Shiels OBE, and take a tour of Old Trafford. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the players’ rooms and to sit in the same seats where the Manchester United team sit on match day.

In conclusion, my journey with stammering has taught me that with support and determination, anything is possible. I hope that my story will inspire others to never give up on their dreams and to always strive for a better tomorrow.

Rise is a program that finds brilliant people who need opportunity and supports them as they work to serve others for life. The program starts at ages 15–17 and offers benefits including scholarships, mentorships, access to career development opportunities, funding and more, as Global Winners work toward solving humanity’s most pressing problems.

An initiative of Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust, Rise is the anchor program of a $1 billion commitment from Eric and Wendy Schmidt to find and support global talent. If you would like to find out more about Rise, visit their website:

By Thomas Grattoni-May, ASC Youth Panelist