Students Present Thought-Provoking Talks in Fifth Annual TEDxYouth Virtual Event: 2020 VISION

Students Present Thought-Provoking Talks in Fifth Annual TEDxYouth Virtual Event: 2020 VISION
Gretchen Lee

We are all too used to hearing from experts, scribbling down what we are told is the 'truth' rather than actively questioning it. We are too used to accepting the facts we are told, about everything from the global state of affairs to how we ought to behave. It is important for students to actively question, to have a role in the conversation about issues integral to our community, and to make their voices heard. It is in this vein that we began TEDxYouth@SRDS five years ago.

TED is a non-profit organization devoted to spreading ideas. These ideas come in the form of short, powerful talks given by some of the greatest thinkers, artists, scientists, and philanthropists whose ideas are worth spreading. TEDx is an international community built around those same principles, allowing local organizers to create their own TED-like events. In this way, TEDxYouth@SRDS provides a forum where students (and some other community members like teachers and alumni) can share their “ideas worth spreading.”

Due to the COVID-19 virus, this year's event was produced and delivered virtually. Student co-organizer Cheyenne Haller, '22 reflects on the 2020 TEDxYouth@SRDS event:

TED Talks are influential talks that are given by a large variety of people all over the world who can talk about almost anything. The “x” in TEDxYouth represents that this event is independently organized. This year at Saddle River Day School, the annual event was organized by Laura Hollis and Verne Becker with the assistance of Cheyenne Haller ’22 and Eli Weinger ’22. Students started to brainstorm, write, and edit their talks in the middle of September with the goal of holding the event in April or May. Throughout the school year, students found room in their busy academic and extracurricular schedules to meet weekly and work on their talks outside of school. Simultaneously, the leaders identified one or two keynote speakers and one or two faculty speakers. In the 2019-2020 school year, the group was fortunate enough to welcome keynote speakers Lanna Nawa and Deonte L. Warren as well as faculty speakers Jennifer Maylath and Joseph McMenamin. By March, everyone was working very hard on talks covering topics including happiness, self-improvement, marine life, the environment, the government, history, and much more. Unlike any of the previous TEDxYouth@SRDS events, this group had to face the obstacles of a global pandemic.

When COVID-19 closed down schools in the middle of March, we immediately knew that things were going to change. Together, we discussed the different options and many of us were set on cancelling this year’s event and picking up where we left off at school in September. We knew that there was a minimal chance of us getting back on campus by June in order to hold this event, and the seniors in the group were going to graduate before we could pull something together. Ms. Hollis motivated students to keep pushing forward, accept the situation, and brainstorm new ways to hold this event. Through a lot of discussion and weighing our options, we came to the conclusion that TEDxYouth@SRDS: 2020 VISION would be a YouTube Live event. Ordinarily, speakers would exercise their public speaking skills in the Performing Arts Center in front of the middle and upper school students and the faculty. Each year, a handful of students volunteer to be crew members who work on lighting, sound, videography and visuals. Another group of students perform artistically in this event, usually reciting an original poem, performing an instrumental piece of music, singing a song, or playing the piano during the emcee’s dialogue. This year, speakers, artists and emcees all filmed their parts individually and a few crew members helped Ms. Hollis in stringing all of it together through seamless editing. Some of the speakers adjusted their talk to touch upon quarantine lifestyle and many had to make changes understanding that they were in front of a camera instead of their fellow classmates. Despite the numerous obstacles, the TEDxYouth@SRDS: 2020 VISION event aired successfully on Tuesday, July 28th and was received with rave reviews! We are extremely proud of this event and of all the people who put a great deal of work into it.

If you watched the live event, we sincerely hope you enjoyed it and if you have not seen the talks yet, the individual talks are posted on https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tedxyouth%40srds