East Grand Rapids High School junior Marie Lachance knows a lot of her classmates have great ideas. They are students like senior Brandon Elliott, who imagines a student-run classroom where students hone their passions. Or senior Meredith Gillespie, who already runs a photography business and wants visual arts in high schoolto meld together all mediums.
These young people can generate dialogue if their voices are heard, Marie said. She decided to bring the visions of students together in a way that connects them with each other, the community and globally.
She recently hosted an independently organized TEDx event, where students and community members presented “A School Re-Imagined,” based on the TEDxYouthDay theme, “A World Re-imagined.” Thirty-six students were involved in the planning process in a TEDx Club that Marie started last fall.
Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring communities together to share experiences like those offered by the international TED program. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.
Changing Perceptions of Teens
Marie attended a pre-college summer program at Brown University last year, where she met a student from New York who organized TEDx events at her high school. She wanted to do the same in East Grand Rapids. She had to follow all TEDx guidelines to make it an authentic TEDx event.
“The entire idea is to give students a platform to share ideas. It’s a celebration of learning,” Marie said. “I think it’s really great way for student voices to be heard, and also have the community be there to share and learn from their ideas.”
Students aren’t always taken seriously, she added.
“Teenagers have such inspiring ideas, and often times they are discarded solely because of the stigma our society places on adolescents,” Marie said. “My goal for this event is to empower the amazing student voices our school has to offer, and open our community’s eyes to the hard work youth are capable of doing if they are truly passionate.”
Brandon Elliott spoke on “Education Evolution”; Meredith Gillespie on “Visual Artistry in a Media-Immersed Society”; junior Athena Zaharakos on “Equal Education”; senior Gabrielle Alter on “The Importance of Mental Health in Public Schools”; and junior Lucy Jackoboice on “Fear to Fail.” Adult speakers were Christina Van Dyke, professor of gender studies at Calvin College; Alexander Constantelos, East Grand Rapids High School student teacher, and David Buth, ACT tutor and nonprofit organizer.
High School Assistant Principal Steve Wojciechowski said the event took huge student initiative.
“They ran with it and put it together. It’s amazing what the kids do nowadays,” he said, noting that the students are coming together to make a difference. “On a bigger stage, they want the chance to share a message everyone can listen to.”