Giving a TED Talk at Clarkston High School’s TEDxYouth@Clarkston was by far one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life.
A group of Clarkston High School Students known as “The Thinking Project” hosted their first Annual TEDxYouth@Clarkston Event on Saturday April 18, 2015. Their vision was to select 12 high school juniors and seniors within Oakland County to each give a 10-12 minute TED talk revolving around the theme of the conference, The Future of Education.
To select speakers, Oakland County principals were given the opportunity to nominate up to three students from their school. Next, nominees filled out a speaker questionnaire which questioned the individual’s experience with public speaking, their opinions on current issues with education, and most importantly, if selected, what would their TED talk discuss. After receiving 30+ nominations, CHS Students narrowed it down to a list of 16 potential speakers who all went through a phone interview process, being questioned more in depth on why they want to give a TED Talk, what makes them stand out from other candidates, and elaborating on their TED Talk ideas. Finally, 12 Oakland County Students, including myself, were notified that they will be giving a TED Talk at TEDxYouth@Clarkston.
When my Student Leadership Advisor, Mrs. Street, first told me that I was nominated to give a TED Talk, I thought she was kidding. She said, “I don’t know much about it right now, but wouldn’t it be really cool if one of our students from Holly ended up being chosen to give a TED Talk?” I filled out the nominee questionnaire elaborating on my passion for education as a future teacher, my experiences working within an 8th grade classroom, and aspiring to give a TED Talk on influential teachers. I clicked send and hoped for the best. A few days later, I was notified via email that I was one of the lucky 16 students who made it to the interview round of the selection process. I signed up for a phone interview that would occur on Tuesday, March 11th during the last ten minutes of my second hour and would be the deciding factor if I was chosen for a TED Talk. Sure enough, that Sunday I received the email I’d been eagerly anticipating; I was chosen to give a TED talk.
I started to draft my TED Talk as soon as I received the email. I chose to write my talk on influential teachers and the words instantly flowed from my fingertips to my keyboard. Writing my talk was one of the easiest and hardest things I’ve ever done. I chose to focus on three teachers who have all touched my life in very different ways: my seventh grade english teacher, Mrs. Briggs, my social studies teacher and student leadership advisor, Mrs. Street, and last but certainly not least, my sociology and psychology teacher, Mrs. Wheeler. As I wrote my talk, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and love for these individuals who have each helped shaped me into who I am today.
I continued to revisit, revise, and practice my talk nearly every day leading up to the big day, fixing some quirks, changing a few details, and going over it to make sure my intended message, teachers do change lives, was heard. I read it to Mrs. Street as we were driving home from a Flint Metro League Student Council meeting. I read it to Mrs. Wheeler one day during lunch and she teared up. The Wednesday before the conference, Mrs. Street had me practice my talk in front of my leadership class to rehearse before the big day. I was scared. To be honest, I think I was more nervous to present it in front of my peers versus the real deal.
Finally, the big day was here. I was going to give a TED talk. The though of that scared me to death and excited me at the same time. I ran through my speech one last time at dress rehearsal that day and then it was show time. The overwhelming support from my peers, teachers, school board members, friends, and family, was one of the biggest blessings I could’ve ever asked for. The superintendent, coordinator of curriculum, my high school principal, my favorite teacher, Wheels, and my parents and classmates arrived to support me. With their love and support, I did it. I gave a TED talk and I know that I conquered one of my biggest fears by doing so.