The Journey of Organizing a TEDx Event, The Teen Way

After months of planning, weeks of logistics and days of stress, I stepped on stage, introduced by my mentor and Lead Organizer of the event Lamar Schrader, a 9th grade English teacher at LTHS. The burning lights beamed down on me, the bright red letters T, E, D, and X behind me.

If you’ve ever searched for an inspirational idea online you’ve probably stumbled across TED Talks or TED.com, but what you may not know is that there’s a TED event that’s being hosted right here in the Lake Travis community. TEDxLakeTravisHigh is a local TED event that is independently organized by community leaders from the area, but these community leaders aren’t adults, they’re students.

A shot of the team taken at the conclusion of our event

I’m fortunate enough to lead a team of forethinking students that work towards a common goal of sharing ideas worth spreading. The team is made up of 20 sophomore and freshman students that dedicate countless hours a week: during club times, after school, on school holidays and even on weekends. The team does everything from picking a theme for the event, recruiting speakers, getting an audience, building the set, and getting sponsorships. Our dynamic consists of two adult leaders, Lamar Schrader and Tara Banton, a student leader, myself, and multiple student team leads with student teams. These student leads rally student teams to complete different tasks throughout the year to make the event possible.

Our event logo

Planning for this year’s event, held April 2nd, began 10 months ago with a brainstorm of themes. We finally decided on “Connections” — a theme seeking to understand the connections we long for in each other, the connections that lead to curiosity and understanding about life and the world in which we live, and those connections that make the world a smaller place. In a world that is so incredibly “connected” through social media and new technology this theme offered the pros and cons of both face-to-face and technological connections. Our event is unique in a way that not many other conferences or events can attest to. Our speakers often contradict each other with completely opposite views of the same topic. This offers the audience a chance to see both sides of an argument and come up with a consensus for themselves.

My involvement began a year ago as a freshman at Lake Travis. We were told to complete a research project with an end goal of creating a TED-style talk that would then be presented at TEDxLakeTravisHigh. I began my research. Naturally I gravitated towards music and the power of its healing, as I am a complete and utter music junkie, but doing a TED talk wasn’t enough for me; I craved something deeper within the TEDx event and the TED community itself.

I began to work with Mr. Schrader to get more involved, simply by putting in the effort to create a program together for the 2015 event “Follow Your Bliss,” with my very limited Photoshop skills. As the event crept closer I anxiously awaited the announcement of speakers. The email came. I was selected to present my TEDx talk titled “Music as medicine.” I rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, over and over and over. The event came. It was much of a blur. We got there at 8 A.M. We set up quickly, and the event started promptly at 9. The audience was filled with mainly my peers. I presented my talk with a few stumbles I must admit, but I made it through; I had given a TEDx Talk.

Working to create our giant TEDx letters for the stage

This year was much different. It was a year filled with much more stress, much more responsibility, but also much more fulfillment. The year started with setting up dynamic teams that would work well together. These teams often spilled over each other with collaboration, often working together to solve complex issues or flaws in our event. From there it was a race against time; create a quality event, with students as organizers, in the limited amount of time we had. I will admit, it was hard, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Our team had to collaborate with other teams throughout the school, from the Film Department to the Theater Tech Department. Students had to work with adults to make their visions come true, often arguing and debating ideas to make it happen. This is something I believe even an adult would have trouble doing.

I stepped on stage that day, April 2nd. I was too sleep deprived to be stressed or nervous. I introduced myself, and I let an intro video provided by TED roll. I mentioned that we were a part of something bigger. That day alone there were 21 other TEDx events happening around the world from Lebanon to Portugal and form Greece to China. Over half of those 21 events were youth based just like ours. My generation may be looked at as one who is oblivious to the world, but we’re waking up. We have ideas, we want to share them, and we’re taking action to make them a reality. The day quickly moved on, starting with an 11 year old talking about inner strength and ending with a filmmaker who believes empathy kills stories.

This experience isn’t something that is given to every child or teen in America, nor the world. I’m incredibly thankful for it and I work hard to make it happen, my entire team does. If I could give just two pieces of advice to everyone: students, adults, the elderly, everyone, it would be this: Watch at least one TED or TEDx talk a week, you’ll learn so much more if you do, and secondly, but most importantly, let the youth talk, their opinions are just as valid as yours.

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