Waiatatia Ratana-Karehana couldn't resist participating in a haka performed for her after winning at the Ngā Manu Kōrero National Secondary School Speech Contest.

The Rangitikei College student was overwhelmed by a feeling of ihi, or excitement, as te reo teacher Alan Harrison and senior students celebrated her achievement.

Ratana-Karehana won the Sir Turi Carroll junior English section with her speech 'I tried to keep quiet, but my ancestors wouldn't let me'.

She said it was a speech she really wanted to make, targeting Māori youth like herself with her words of wisdom.

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"I spoke about colonisation and the effects that it has today and about stereotypes like drug use and the statistics behind them," Ratana-Karehana said.

"The statistics are real, but we don't have to be a part of them. You don't have to be another Māori teen mum or drug user."

The Horowhenua and Manawatū regional Ngā Manu Kōrero speeches were held at Hato Pāora College in Feilding.

Ratana-Karehana was the only student outside of Manukura in Palmerston North to win her section.

Her iwi are Ngāti Apa, Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi. Her whānau is her biggest inspiration, including dad Steven Karehana.

"He's a very confident public speaker, he can get up and do a really good speech. I think I get it from him," Ratana-Karehana said.

"He used to play rugby and league for Marton. He used to be captain, so he was always in an environment where he needed to get up and speak."

She says her mum Nikita Ratana is much more shy, but always there for her, listening to speeches and critiquing them.

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Ratana-Karehana has spent her whole life in Marton and was a Year 4 pupil at Marton Junction School when she began competing in Marton Lions Club competitions.

However, she had never spoken in front of as many as 200 people before and it was her first time competing in Ngā Manu Kōrero in 2019, but that suited her fine.

"It's very easy to get up in front of strangers and talk, because it's six minutes and I'm never going to see them again.

"But getting up in front of your peers and making a mistake, well you'll never be able to fix it because they know you and they're always with you."

Two judges gave Ratana-Karehana a score of 99/100 and one gave her 98 based on criteria such as presentation, structure and pronunciation.

The win gives Ratana-Karehana the opportunity to perform her speech again, this time at the finals to be held in Palmerston North's Regent Theatre in September.

Ratana-Karehana said it is another really good opportunity, not only for herself, but for others.

"When I get on a stage and everybody's quiet and listening to me, it makes me think 'they're listening to you, so make it worthwhile'.

"Knowing I could have an impact on someone's life is very special. You get a lot of self-mana when you're on that stage and everybody's listening to you."