TEDx: A Global Conversation to Inspire Youth
By: Susannah M.
Is it to launch into Mars with NASA or become a doctor? To get an A on your history exam? How about a dream for gender equality? No matter how large or how small your dream may be, you should never let the idea that a dream is just a dream, a figment of intangible hope, take control. This mindset of motivation and accomplishment is what inspired this year’s TEDxYouthDay.
Our third annual event here at Hewitt, organized by faculty advisor Stephanie Dore, and the student TEDxYouth@Hewitt Curatorial Team, was an incredible success. Months of planning and hours of work finally paid off. From the moment the very first guests arrived, Hewitt’s gymnasium was buzzing with energy and excitement in anticipation of how the day would turn out. But the Charlotte Comfort Auditorium was in no ordinary state: walls lined with boards full of dreams, a decorated stage adorned with a coveted speaker spotlight, and embellishments of red and black, colors of TED, welcomed audience members.
The event, lasting about five hours, was comprised of three slates of speakers and three breaks. During each break, attendees were given the opportunity to talk with speakers and to take part in fun and innovative break out activities designed to stimulate collaboration. Speakers from all over, with completely different yet equally inspiring backgrounds, congregated at our school with a common purpose: to encourage young people to take steps of action from simple dreams toward real-world change.
The entire day and everything about it was centered on the universal TEDx theme of “Dream Big…Then Do Something!” On top of that, Hewitt created its own theme related to the power of one versus the power of all within dreams and achievements.
Each speaker shared with us his or her personal, individual story about dreams as well as wider concepts to empower young people, just like Hewitt students, to go out and take action, not afraid of what others might think or say.
One speaker who showed this exceptionally well was Scott Warren, founder and executive director of Generation Citizen, which partners college students with classroom teachers to help students solve problems in their own communities.
Scott taught about his personal experiences with democracy, lending his views on how we, through democratic means, are able to make collaborative differences through individual actions. In his TED talk, Scott noted, “Because we do have the opportunities to dream big and to make a difference, we should utilize these resources to the best of our abilities to advocate for our voice as a nation and as people.”
In an interview I conducted with Scott, when asked about the specific roles we all play, he said, “In my opinion, democracies work best when individuals use their own voices to come together to make a joint and collaborative impact, which is what TEDxYouthDay is all about. We all express our own opinions as part of the greater collective good.”
Another speaker, Silda Wall Spitzer, the former first lady of New York, reminded us all that age should not be a deciding factor in achieving our dreams. She has worked with young people for the past seventeen years to help them in finding their voice and power through service and volunteering, by founding GenerationOn, the global youth service movement of Points of Light. Through the work I am personally doing with GenerationOn, I can constantly see just how this mission of igniting all kids to make their mark on the world through service can translate toward real action and change.
Through her time at Hewitt, Ms. Wall Spitzer gave some advice to students about tackling dreams:
- “Dream as big as you can because you are the only one who can limit your potential.”
- “Proactively identifying a problem and reflecting on the process is ideal framework and training in approaching your careers and opportunities through service, both creatively and entrepreneurially.”
- “Big can be little, and little can be a lot.”
- “Don’t be afraid to embark on the change you want to see in the world, whatever the size.”
Ms. Wall Spitzer was really able to emphasize just how important we, as kids, can be. Our steps to action may take us to new, unfamiliar territory, but we can’t be afraid to explore it just because some people say we’re too young.
In addition to all our other wonderful speakers like Jamia Wilson, vice president of programs at the Women’s Media Center, and Kate Brodock, the CMO of Girls in Tech, we were shown other ways to conquer dreams, like through art. Two slam poets, Ashley “Ajay” Johnson and Lo Anderson, a dance group focused on sending positive messages through performance art, DOLLARBOYZ, and artist, activist, and teacher Maggie Tobin, who promotes art for social change, all showed us that our dreams and goals can come in all shapes and sizes.
The day was definitely a huge success. From behind the scenes, things went quite smoothly, a true challenge, for “putting on these fantastic events that reach out of our community really do take a village to organize,” as head of school Joan Lonergan stated. Silda Spitzer called TEDxYouth@Hewitt an “utterly inspiring forum for power and youth.”
But this day went beyond Hewitt’s tight-knit community. TEDxYouthDay 2012 saw 100 TEDx events designed specifically for youth hosted on November 17th and 18th in 42 different countries, in honor of Universal Children’s Day. It’s something bigger than just one school or community. This global conversation, as Scott Warner puts it, “gives youth the opportunity to truly see that their voices matter and that they can make a difference.” It’s so important to be a part of a bigger movement, for it makes actions more effective and gives people a bigger sense of purpose.
Teens and kids everywhere can take action, but we can’t stray away from change and leave it all up to adults – we have to be part of the change and the solution! If this year’s TEDxYouth@Hewitt conference has shown us anything, it’s that we truly do have the power to create change and to start a ripple effect, for our creative passion can serve as ample fuel to start something bigger than ourselves.
And remember, ‘big’ is relative. Any small action or spark counts as a step toward change: anything from awareness and advocacy through the Internet to having a presentation in your community to creating a product for social betterment. We have a great chance to speak up and use all that’s around us, unlike those in many other countries, so why not take advantage of it? All the dreams we turn into realities today will affect the futures we inherit tomorrow, and the global conversation of TEDxYouthDay has really shown that.
So now, go out and dream big… Then do something about it!