TEDxYouth@Hewitt Rocks the House

On November 20th, in our very own Charlotte Comfort Auditorium, the minds of the next generation were being stimulated by the wise, informative, and inspiring words of people changing the world we know today.

I was part of the crowd that shuffled into the Hewitt School that Saturday morning to attend the TEDxYouth@Hewitt event. This youth conference, successfully planned and executed by the ACTION club and Dr. Burgess, surpassed all expectations, bringing students, wannabe world-changers, and any curious minds along for a ride to explore how young people can “be the change” we wish to see in the world.

ACTION club after the TEDxYouth event

TED (technology, entertainment, and design) meetings started out in 1986 as a gathering of world leaders, activists, artists, and more to inspire debate and communication. In 2007 the program for TEDx, independently organized TED events. TEDxYouth planners picked November 20th, Universal Children’s Day, as the date for a host of youth activist conferences around the globe.

ACTION organized Hewitt’s event into three slates with intermissions for conversation in-between. The first slate, “Be the Change: Giving Voice,” informed the audience about problems affecting the world today. The next slate, “Be the change: Becoming Leaders,” told the audience how they could involved with the problems facing our society today and what they have done. The final slate, “Be the Change: What’s next?” helped to jump start the minds of attendees to see how they personally could “be the change the change you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi).

Speakers from a variety of backgrounds and careers spoke at this TEDx event. Each one was fascinating (and I don’t mean this in the overused, sarcastic “oh well that was…fascinating” way, but really, honestly attention-grabbing, thought provoking, interesting people).

Amita Swadhin speaking at TEDxYouth@Hewitt

The first speaker was Amita Swadhin, a youth educator, anti-abuse and violence activist She talked to us about what she called “the taboo epidemic” of child sexual abuse. She gave the statistics ( 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the age of 18), which types of cases of sexual abuse the media portrays and what is left out, and a documentary she created at NYU of 14 students on their opinions of child abuse. She expressed her hope that child sexual abuse would soon become a more accessible topic to discuss among and more properly addressed by society. She is a project coordinator of Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors (a theatrical project premiering this May that will present survivors of incest talking about their experiences)

A speaker who I noticed really intrigued a lot of people from the event was Krupali K. Tejura, M.D. On her blog  Dr. Tejura describes herself as a “Cancer Doctor (Radiation Oncologist), Patient Advocate, Writer, Traveler, Dreamer, Music Lover, Sports Enthusiast, and Believer”. She writes about her experiences with cancer patients, seeking to answer the questions ‘What makes them tick?’ and ‘What are their dreams?’. She says she has realized the power of social networks can have on the lives of her patients and really any one in need. She has utilized both facebook and twitter, for example, to find a surgeon for an ill baby on her trip to Uganda.  Also by using social networks, she has been able to provide terminally ill patients with opportunities to fulfill their dreams. Truly inspirational, Dr. Tejura posed the question to the audience, how can you use the social media sites you use everyday as  powerful tool to impact the world?

Fiona Lowenstein speaking at TEDxYouth@Hewitt

Speaker Fiona Lowenstein, a junior at the Calhoun , talked about her philosophy of conduct: ask to receive, without fearing rejection. An interest of Lowenstein is getting girls interested in politics, a topic she first got involved in with an essay she wrote when she was twelve which prompted her to seek out senator Hillary Clinton, who she has now met three times.

Other speakers included Audrey Stone, Assistant District Attorney in Westerchester, discussed how her office works to support victims of domestic and child abuse, Amy Unell (an ex-producer of the Today show, she understands the power of television, multimedia, and story telling; currently working on her documentary Starting at the Finish Line: the Coach Buehler Story, narrating the positive influence and impact an mentor can have on a young adult, and Arthur Levine (the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation gave a moving speech about the changes that occurred in his South Bronx hometown, the current residents, and how his impact may have saved a young boy’s education and even life).

Some truly fabulous artists came to the Hewitt’s TEDx youth day event as presenters. Lo and Mega, two poets affiliated with Urban word NYC recited, or rather elaborately performed,

Urban Word NYC Poets: Lo and Mega

their astounding poetry and encouraged the audience to be interactive with claps and whoots.

During intermissions, all the attendees were encouraged by to practice their networking skills and mingle. Sent out to start some awkward conversations, the audience began to come together and really meet some interesting people. I decided to interview some of the Hewitt students in attendance to ask them how they thought the event was going and any reflections. Aileen Cordero (grade 9) said she thought the TEDx event was “Interesting… Inspiring” When asked which speaker inspired her to most so far, she answered with Dr. Tejura, saying “usually we use facebook to talk to friends, but she used it to good in the world and I’ve never really seen someone to do that.”

Elenni Guzman (grade 11), a member of the ACTION club told me that the TEDxYouth@Hewitt event took “a lot of preparation beforehand, we [the Action club] had to plan everything out, get everyone to sign up, get the food, and [make] the sign on the board.” Emma Blinken (grade 10), another ACTION club member, said that, so far, she was “truly inspired by everyone that had spoken, done or shared anything. Everyone is interested and wants to find out more about these causes.”

Peers of our own Hewitt community also took part in this event as presenters. Dana Laurie (12th grade) spoke about her battle with pituitary cancer and her organic, vegan cosmetics line. Dana has spoken on the Stupid Cancer Radio show about her experience and issues diagnosed teens face.

Another Hewitt speaker was Molly Lippert (grade 8). Molly is the teen ambassador for the National Osteroporosis Foundation. She promotes healthy eating and exercise to teens to prevent bone loss later in their lives.

G-Pow performing at TEDxYouth@Hewitt

Finally, Zoe Himmel’s (grade 9) singing group G-POW, gave us a performance of their pop songs with catchy beats. The band’s members write music with a message to positively influence listeners.

The whole event was emceed by the charismatic Elizabeth Bloodworth, a friend of our very own Ms. Lindberg. TEDx youth day @ Hewitt was live-streamed out to the internet and has been archived, so you can revisit all these speaker’s fabulous presentations by going to: the TEDxYouth@Hewitt web site. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did the actual event; I commend the Action Club and Dr. Burgess for their work to bring TEDxYouth to Hewitt and hope Hewitt will host other TEDx events in the future.

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