From setting world records to presenting to the NHS and the United Nations about the impact of Covid-19 on young people, royal marines cadet Monty has already done quite a lot. He talked to us about what he hopes to do next
The list of things that 15-year-old Monty has achieved is impressive. But even he suffers from imposter syndrome sometimes: a tiny bit of self-doubt. When he received the British Citizen Youth Award for services to charity and the community, along with the impact of his research into sleep patterns in young people, “I felt immensely proud,” he says. “But while I’ve undertaken all these various achievements, so have so many other people during the coronavirus pandemic. So I accepted the award on behalf of all those who have made a positive impact in their communities.”
The royal marines cadet from Preston is now an Ambassador for the British Citizen Awards and hopes to identify other young people whose public service should be celebrated. “I’m sure we have many in Sea Cadets,” he adds.
Monty has already built on his skills, even though he only became a cadet last summer, in a pandemic. “It was great to see how quickly units adapted and took training online,” he says. “This weekend, I’m taking part in a seamanship course. Next month I’m on a basic aviation course, followed by a physical training course.”
Sea Cadets also helps with basic life skills, he says, like confidence. “From my experiences so far, it helps you to inwardly reflect, looking at your personal development and how you can bring out the potential in other people around you too.”
That confidence comes in useful for all the public speaking Monty does. He recently took part in an NHS webinar, speaking to government officials about his research into the impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health; he’s given TEDx talks, and has presented to the United Nations on technology and young people.
“Public speaking is crucial in all aspects of life, even more so if you want to take on leadership roles,” says Monty. “I’m also looking at developing some TEDx talks involving cadets, to help inform the public about the benefits of Sea Cadets.”
Isn’t it stressful talking in front of so many people? “I usually am nervous before giving speeches,” Monty agrees. “Sea Cadets is superb because you get the opportunity to practise in a safe environment.”
Outside Sea Cadets, for his research into the pandemic Monty conducted an independent study of 2,000 children and young people during the first lockdown of 2020. He says the results show an alarming rise in feelings of isolation, depression and uncertainty among teenagers, across all genders and ethnic groups. When asked what impact they thought lockdown would have an their mental health, the majority of respondents answered 10 out of 10 – they were worried it would have an extremely high impact.
Now that we’re in the third national lockdown, Monty recently presented these findings to a House of Commons group on mentoring. “I was able to establish an increase in the negative effects on mental health, for each new period of lockdown,” he reveals.
His top tip for dealing with the stresses of the pandemic? “The responses showed that each of us has our own style of relaxation. Whatever that may be, the one piece of advice I would give is to ensure you make opportunities to relax and de-stress. Just carve yourself a little time out of each day, find a different room and vary your environment, even for just 10 minutes.”
One of the TEDx talks that Monty has given was on memory and how to improve it. As of April this year, he now holds five Guinness World Records for memory challenges, and has set up the charity Young Active Minds to help others to improve their memory and learning skills. “Memory is just like a muscle,” Monty tells us. “It can be trained over time. Anyone can have a fantastic memory.”
He has more world records planned after lockdown ends, and wants to get cadets involved in a few record attempts as well, by developing a rapid memory technique to help cadets learn multiple six-figure grid references. In recognition of Monty’s contributions and positive impact on society, he has also just been appointed as the youngest ever Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) and now carries the letters ‘FRSA’ after his name. He joins other notable Fellows past and present such as Charles Dickens, Stephen Hawking, Marie Curie and Sir David Attenborough.
“I seriously can’t think of any other way that young people today can get such ready access to a whole host of skills and positive experiences that they can share with each other and that enrich their own skill sets,” says Monty.
“With Sea Cadets, you have access to so many courses and even accredited qualifications, including Leadership & Management, which looks great on any CV. Joining Sea Cadets is like opening a door and all these opportunities literally throw themselves at you.”
After already achieving so much, what’s left on Monty’s ‘to-do’ list? “I’m about to start my A-levels but will be continuing my research and hope to get it published. I’m also continuing my work with the United Nations and UNESCO, increasing awareness locally of global issues and giving youth voices a platform.”
Career-wise, Monty has his sights set on an aviation career in the Royal Navy. “I feel that being part of the Sea Cadets community will help me to pursue my career aspirations,” says Monty. “As well as providing a good insight into naval life, it provides some valuable skills and experiences that you wouldn’t pick up anywhere else and that will equip me for my future.
“One of the key aspects that I’ve seen throughout lockdown with Virtual Sea Cadets, is the resilience cadets have shown during times of adversity, and the ability to adapt to these ongoing changes. You never quite know what life is going to throw at you.”
Monty has another TEDx talk coming up this summer. Find out more here.
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