A killer speech about orca being held in captivity has earned one Whanganui High School student a trip to North America.

Emelye Brown, 17, recently won the NZ Lions Young Speechmaker Contest held in Christchurch with her speech about animal welfare.

Brown was one of 13 competitors aged 17 - 21 from throughout New Zealand to participate and will spend five weeks traveling USA and Canada for her efforts.

"I went to the final not expecting to get a lot out of it other than experience, so I was shocked to win, it was crazy," Brown said.

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"There were so many amazing speechmakers there and I felt lucky and happy enough just to be there with them."

Brown will leave for North America in December, where she will act as a youth ambassador, speaking about New Zealand at Lions clubs and staying with their members.

Her winning speech was inspired by the Gabriela Cowperthwaite directed documentary Blackfish which focuses on Tilikum - an orca held in captivity by SeaWorld.

Emelye Brown took out the NZ Lions Young Speechmaker Contest, earning a trip to North America in December. Photo / Stuart Munro
Emelye Brown took out the NZ Lions Young Speechmaker Contest, earning a trip to North America in December. Photo / Stuart Munro

"I watched the documentary a couple of months ago and it really affected me," Brown said.

"It was a confronting documentary, it inspired me to talk about the topic with others and to speak out about the issue of orca captivity, which not many people know about."

Brown remembers competing in her first speech competition in year three, in which she spoke about her cats and used stuffed animal figurines that looked like them as props.

She loves competing and meeting other students that share her passion for public speaking.

"I really like being able to talk to a group of people, but to me it feels like I'm just talking to one person and I enjoy being able to get my point across and sharing my opinions.

"There aren't a lot of speech competitions around so it's awesome to have the opportunity to be able to speak in a competition at my age."

Brown says a good speechmaker is someone who is confident, relaxed and incorporates a little bit of humour - even if the subject is a bit serious.

"Public speaking is such an important skill to have, especially in the future when you go for job interviews and things like that," she said.

"My goal is to hopefully speak in the United Nations, it's a big goal, but I hope that one day it will become a reality."