HGS student receives prestigious Diana Award

Harrogate Grammar School student Lella Halloum has been honoured with The Diana Award for her work to motivate young people during the pandemic by holding online technology classes for students worldwide.

The Year 12 student is one of 300 young people globally to be recognised by the Award, which was established in memory of Princess Diana to applaud young people’s positive contribution to society.

Lella, 16, said: “It’s such a prestigious award and I’m so excited to think that the organisers have read my story and support how I’ve found positivity in such an unjust world at an unjust time. I’m passionate about youth inclusion and equality of access and I hope that I’m complementing Diana’s legacy in trying to open up the world of tech to all young people, to help them reach their full potential.”

After starting coding at the age of eight, Lella went to her first hackathon (a 24-hour competition where people code and pitch solutions) aged 11, making her first connections in what is now a global network within the tech industry.

She regularly addresses huge industry conferences with her views on addressing the gap between the tech industry and students in the classroom, and last month she spoke at an international conference organised by the United Nations about child online protection.

The Duke of Sussex sent a message to the Award winners at a virtual ceremony, saying: “Thank you for inspiring us with your brilliance, your determination and your compassion. Our Mum believed that young people have the power to change the world… Your actions hold the potential to leave a life-changing impact.”

Lella was nominated for the Award by multinational technology giant IBM, which has declared her the youngest IBM Champion for 2021. When the first lockdown was imposed in 2020 and her GCSE exams were cancelled, Lella helped found the IBM Z Student Hub. She hosted virtual chats and an events series attended by students from the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia as well as Europe. She also established a hub for humanitarian aid after the devastating explosion in Beirut last year.

Lella said: “The pandemic took control out of my hands in terms of my exams, academically, professionally and personally. Being able to work with IBM and feel like my voice was heard was something that I really needed, particularly at that time where my future did just seem so uncertain.

Lella is studying English Literature, History and Politics at A level, with an EPQ about digital inclusion. She hopes to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at University and then go into a career where her digital inclusion ideals can make a difference.

Headteacher Neil Renton said: “Lella has done a remarkable job of inspiring both young people and industry leaders and The Diana Award is a fitting tribute to her energy, tenacity and generosity of spirit.”