13th Jun 2022

Teenage schoolgirl is latest and youngest inspirational speaker at STEMFest NetZero

A 13-year-old schoolgirl with a lifelong passion for climate change will inspire her peers to live sustainably during the upcoming STEMFest NetZero event at St. James’ Park.

Gwen Lewis-Hedley, who attends Valley Gardens Middle School, in Whitley Bay, will be encouraging pupils from more than 100 North East school to attend the three-day exhibition giving young people the opportunity to explore a future career in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector.

Gwen said: “When I was in Year Five, a teacher approached me about starting an eco-club, since I had been involved in some similar projects earlier in the year.

“In the beginning, I started with the approach I'd learned from the way most people handle the subject with a strong message that ‘young people will save the planet’ and to ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’.

“But then I read Greta Thunberg's book No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference. Not only did it give me a clearer understanding of the science but changed the way I looked at climate crisis education – ‘can young people save the planet?’ No, not without governments. And if we reduce, reuse and recycle, will it make a difference? Only if the ethos is implemented to systems on a global scale.

“I took this with me to every meeting, rally and article on the subject I've approached since. I started getting more involved with local climate action groups around the lockdown period, and was surprised by how resilient the young activists I met were even when they couldn't use their usual campaign methods. Focusing on climate action got me through some tough times during the pandemic, and in my action now, I try to show other young people that by doing something about important

about global problems, the worry and hopelessness you may feel surrounding them can go away. STEMFest is a key support for young people in North Tyneside and their futures. Evidently, I aim for a similar influence in climate action and feel very enthusiastic about supporting and taking part in the event. I want to say how grateful I am to Dawn Ross and Claire Willis for inviting me.

“Their passion, positivity and faith in kids' futures is very inspiring, and speaks for what STEMFest is all about.”


Claire Willis, Business Development Manager for the North East STEM Hub, added: “What an inspiration Gwen is to the next generation, her courage at speaking out on her beliefs is admirable.

“NetZero is high on the UK government's agenda for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and we are keen to educate and inspire the next generation the importance of protecting the climate whilst demonstrating the opportunities that will be available in careers.

“I am delighted that Gwen at such a young age is coming to help spread the word and help put the region on the map.”

STEMFEST NetZero also welcomes 50 businesses in five zones – Power and Natural Resources Zone which is sponsored by Dogger Bank Wind Farm, Climate and Adaptation Zone sponsored by Jacobs, Building and Construction Zone sponsored by Balfour Beaty, Business and Industry Zone sponsored by Accenture and the transport zone.

Headline sponsored by Sage, a leader in the account, financial, HR and payroll for small and mid-sized businesses, the face-to-face and digital hybrid event is being coordinated by the North East STEM Hub in partnership with Newcastle United Foundation’s innovative NU Futures programme.

For more information on STEMFEST NetZero, visit:

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