TEDxTeen 2013 Speaker Highlights

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TED Talks began to disseminate ideas worth spreading and the licensed TEDx talks follow by all the same rules. There is almost nothing that will inspire you more. I was lucky enough to get a press pass to attend TEDxTeen 2013 held in Scholastic headquarters in NYC. These speakers have accomplished more at a very young age than most people accomplish in a lifetime.

Chelsea Clinton – Host
Chelsea definitely has her parents speaking ability. Now in her 30s, she was sort of an elder statesman at this event (which made me feel ancient). In addition to introducing each of the speakers, she gave the first talk of the day.

Speaking to the teens in the audience she said:

“Youth are just as likely if not more to have vital contributions to make. You are the voices of tomorrow and have ideas worth spreading. It might not be obvious to you. You think, can I ever make a difference? I’m not a change maker. Adults in your lives may reinforce this message. We are here to repudiate this.

Engaging in the work of the world and making lives better is deeply rewarding and a lot of fun. You don’t have deeply ingrained biases. You ask the simplest questions. You have the audacity to ask why. Why is it like it is and not better. Force the rest of us to think and act more boldly.”

Chelsea’s three rules to follow are Start Where You Are, Have the Courage To Be Second and Because You Can You Should. She quoted her grandmother saying “Life is what you do with what happens to you”.

Chelsea also spoke about going to Nigeria to talk about diarrhea  So many kids die from this preventable and treatable disease. Part of the reason that more isn’t done about this is that people don’t like to talk about it. It is important to talk about things that are squeamish. We need to be comfortable to talk about diarrhea. Kids lives depend on it.

Caine Monroy – Caines Arcade
The youngest speaker of the day, at the age of 9, Caine built an arcade starting with a cardboard box and his imagination. His story is amazing and you can check it out at Caines Arcade.

Joseph Peter – Photographer Happiness Project

When he was 13, Joseph’s father took him to see the 1993 World Cup trophy and it inspired him. He traveled to pursue his passion in soccer. He immersed himself in culture and languages and saw a view of culture and humanity that might not have happened. Because he wanted to share it with his family, the early seeds of photography began taking root.

He played soccer until his mid 20s. He then bought his first camera at 25 and his passion for travel continued but now with a camera in hand he could view people and focus on portrait photography and became intrigued with the decisive moment – the second when you can truly connect with someone’s heart.

In 2009 he created the Book of Happiness: Africa from a photographic study of happiness during the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour. He now has a Happiness factory in NYC. The book inspired the first ever International Day of Happiness, March 20th, so get ready to celebrate. We all have the power to change the world. Learn more at JosephPeter.com

Kuha’o Case – Musical Prodigy
Case is from Hawaii, a musical prodigy and has been blind since an infant. What did he have to say about being blind:

“Some call this a disability, some call it a challenge, I don’t know any different so I call it life. By living life and trying to achieve my goals I’ve learned something that allowed me to be here today – in my own life, I see no limits. In some very significant ways having your sight may be more limiting than being blind. “

He performed for us songs randomly picked from the audience and he was amazing. For more on Kuha’o and his music check out his website Kuhaosdream.com

Kelvin Doe – Winner of Global Minimum’s Innovate Salone 2012
Living in Sierra Leone, at the age of 10 he began scavenging for scrap electronic parts from dump sites for his inventions. Kelvin built a radio station for his community out of recycled materials. Not only did he and his team win the award above, but Kelvin was invited to speak at athe World Maker Faire 2012 and became the youngest ever visiting practitioner with MIT International  Development Initiative. Check out this video of Kelvin Doe wowing MIT.

Tania Lunia – Suprisologist

Tania is the CEO of Surprise Industries and a psychology instructor at Hunter college. She challenged a group of teens to capture surprise on camera – they watched a video, a surprise came, there was noticeable surprise – the duh face!

Surprise hijacks all of our mental processes, it literally stops us in our tracks. When we are surprised our emotions intensify be about 400%. She made a film of greatly surprised faces. Surprise is really an alert that tells you that you were wrong. Surprise = learning.

“What if we let ourselves learn every time we are surprised by deviations from our stereotypes?Wondering makes life more interesting than knowing. Wondering makes not knowing better. Let yourself be taken by surprise. Don’t throw that moment away. Take that as an opportunity to say I wonder.”

Maria Toorpakai Wazir – Pakistan’s No. One Ranked Women’s Squash Player

In the village where Maria grew up, women were not allowed to get an education, health care or leave the house. If they break the rules they get killed or tortured. Her father was different. He believed that women could do anything. Her mother got an education.

Maria’s father told her to take off her burqa and be a courageous woman. She burned all her girly clothes and her father gave her a boys name so she could do things a boy could do. She was involved in brutal fights with boys and always beat them.  She was very aggressive so her father felt that sports would be  a way to channel them. So she did weight lifting (as a boy). Then moved to squash.

She wanted to be a world champion in boys Squash but they asked for a birth certificate and her true identity was revealed so she decided to go for girls squash. She was leaving the house without her burka and was bullied by men and receiving death threats.

She knew in the west there would be more freedom to live the way she wanted  She email schools all over the world. She received an email back from Jonathon Power that he would train her in Canada. She is getting better in Squash and as a person too.

Ndaba Mandela – Co-Founder & Co-Chairman, Africa Rising Foundation, grandson of Nelson Mandela (check out the Africa Rising Foundation)

I’ve inherited an opportunity that I will not complain about. I can take control my own destiny. My goal is to inspire others to chart their own course. Our mission is to change the perception of our continent (Africa) – poverty, disease, dictators and war. I’m not here to deny that these things exist, however there are many more things happening that the mainstream media don’t report. The majority of the people live in rural areas and don’t have access to education and culture. We must leverage the powerful tool that tech can provide.

Tallia Storm – Singer
Tallia Storm always kept a demo of her songs in her handbag. At the age of 13, Talia was on vacation with her family at the same time that Elton John happened to be staying at the same hotel with his family. At breakfast she saw Elton’s partner, David Furnish, and seized the opportunity by asking him to pass on her demo. It was so good that Elton John called her and asked her to open for him at his next concert in Scotland (she is Scottish). She did nothing but practice and now is critically acclaimed in Scotland with growing popularity around the world. See and hear more on Tallia’s website.

Kristopher Bronner – Co-creator of UNREAL Brands
When his parents told him that candy was bad for him, Kristopher didn’t want to believe it. He did research and found out that his parents were right. So, while still a teenage, he created a company that makes healthy candy. (I will be writing more about this in another post, but I’ll tell you know, it is delicious). Kristopher had this to say to other teens:

It’s not enough just to do the right thing. Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Adults, please support your children and let them go after their dreams. Let them learn, dream, and fail. Teens. Of everyone in the world, you have the power to change it.

Learn more about UNREAL Brands.

Amaryllis Fox – Founder and CEO of Mulu

At 17 and not sure what to do with her life, Amaryllis went on a trip to the Burmese border with an American student tour agency. As they were boarding to leave, instinct told her to stay. 15 years later and she can find in that moment the beginnings of career, relationships and the beginnings of who she is. This one single moment of terror, passion and conviction created who she is. She was alone abroad with little money and was operating on sheer instinct.

Would she have come to the same conclusion if she had made a list of pros and cons, probably not. The subconscious mind is smarter. After forging careers and International Relations and Human Rights, she Fox now runs Mulu, an online tool-making global publishers’ content shoppable for charity.

“Trust your intuition. There are patterns in you that make you qualified to make the right decisions.”

Sophie Umazi – creator of I AM KENYAN

Visual stimulii is very important in our life. Ads have pictures for that reason.

In 2007 Kenya proved the world wrong and they killed each other based on ethnic differences. 3 men almost killed Sophie because her skin is lighter than that of their tribe. She couldn’t understand why they would want to take her life based on something she could not control. Her looks, not her character. Her faith in humanity had been shatterd.

In 2012 she heard that Kenyan was going to go into that type of violence again. She started calling on people on Facebook from all over the world to send in pictures of themselves saying I AM KENYAN. Within 4 days there was an outreach from over 4,000 people. Photos from many countries around the world all saying I AM KENYAN. Photography is a powerful storyteller and when Kenyans, both locally and in the Diaspora, come together to tell of and confirm their identity through this powerful platform, a strong message is sent to the public. It encourages them to see themselves as Kenyans before identifying themselves ethnically.

Dylan Vecchione – Founder of ReefQuest

When he was 6, Dylan was snorkeling at a reef in west Maui, but one year later when he returned, the beautiful colors were overtaken by algae. At 7 he still knew he needed answers. Coral reefs were dying due to climate change and pollution. Why was the algae taking over?

What can I do, he asked himself. He was full of sadness and questions. He looked for answers, found a passion, loved it and found sense of purpose. He decided to focus on local water pollution issues and learned that nutrients were being put in the water. He thought that was good but found out that they were polluting the water and only feeding the algae.

He decided to educate people about these issues. He had passion, a goal and an idea, but needed a question to answer. He needed a passionate questions – the type of question that prompts research. A passionate question should challenge you, should be a bridge to the undiscovered.

How can people care about coral reefs if they can’t even see them. He created a 3d under water panoramic view of a coral reef. This virtual coral reef allowed others to relate to what he was doing. He discovered that the virtual reef was more than pictures. It was a platform for others to perform citizen science  – ReefQuest was born from this.

Wow. Are this speakers amazing. I will be following up with this article with another post about some of the sponsors of TEDxTeen. They are pretty amazing also.


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See also: 
Teen Creates Delicious Candy Without Junk: UNREAL
TEDxWomen – How Teen Girls Are Harmed By Our Culture

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  1. I watch ted talks whenever I can, I love being exposed to new concepts. How advantageous for young people to have peers that are willing to share!

  2. I hadn’t heard of this but plan to share it with my kids.

  3. I would love to attend this some day. What a powerhouse of synergy! Love watching the taped talks, though, for now.

  4. Mellissa Hanks :

    Wow I had not heard of this yet. I bet my son would love this.

  5. What amazing stories! And I love that Chelsea Clinton has come into her own. I’ve always been an admirer.
    This sounds like a great event. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Amazing is right! Also rather incredible.

  7. WOW! Amazing stories… what a great event, thank you sooo much for sharing

  8. This sounds like it was amazing and I love Chelsea Clinton and would have loved to hear her speak.

  9. This is cool! It’s true that everyone can have something to contribute, no matter their age!

  10. I have not heard about this yet!

  11. Middle-aged Diva (Carol) :

    Nice stuff! What an interesting post!

  12. Really great highlights, Jennifer. I was honored to be there myself and am in total agreement with you.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Interesting…wish they had this when I was younger.

    Susan Dusterhoft
    Today’s Working Woman

  15. What a great group of young people making a difference!

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