"Should I tick Māori or New Zealand European? If I tick Māori, I am denying my mum and her ancestry, and if I tick NZ European, I am denying my dad and his whakapapa."
Year 11 Karamu High School student Lena Ormsby said this as part of her regional winning speech at the Hawke's Bay Race Unity Speech Awards.
Her speech, "Ban the Box", spoke of her family's experience with racism, experiences she has had as a Māori person "[who doesn't] exactly look Māori", and her belief that in today's multicultural society "this 'tick one box only' system is antiquated, divisive and hurtful".
"Where people are from so many diverse backgrounds, they can only choose one part of them to represent, or say that they are, it's not great."
After coming first in the regional competition, Ormsby headed to Auckland on Friday to compete in the national semifinals alongside regional winners from around the country.
The Race Unity Speech Awards are an opportunity for senior high school students around New Zealand to express their thoughts on how race relations in Aotearoa can be improved.
They are held in support of Race Relations Day.
The year 11-13 students addressed the topic "kia kotahi te hoe – paddle as one".
She has wanted to enter the competition since she was 12, when her dad was one of the competition judges.
Sitting behind the judges with a good view of the 2018 speech award contestants, she was inspired.
"To this day I still remember some of the speeches.
"I didn't just sit and listen; I was able to understand and take things away from it which I loved and I shared it with everyone when I got back to school."
She wanted to enter the competition as many people have had to deal with racism and she thought it was the "perfect opportunity" to address it.
"To be able to recognise [racism] and say it's still going on but this could be changing, I just thought that would be the best thing to do, raise awareness as well and encourage people to keep moving on."
Ormsby has "always been a performer" and since competing in ballet in a young age has loved being on stage.
She hopes to continue public speaking and entering speech competitions, and encourages other students to enter the Race Unity Speech Awards.
While Ormsby was not one of two winners in her heat at the semifinals, she says she enjoyed the whole weekend and hearing overall national winner Lucia-Tui Bernards speak in her heat.