Student officers and speakers host TedxVandegrift’s first ever conference

TedxVandegrift leaders, volunteers and speakers pose for a group photo after their conference. The event took place at Riverbend Church on Saturday May 20.
TedxVandegrift leaders, volunteers and speakers pose for a group photo after their conference. The event took place at Riverbend Church on Saturday May 20.
Submitted Photo

TedxVandegrift held their very first event on Saturday, May 20, at Riverbend Church from 4-6 p.m. They had a panel of student speakers and their TEDxYouth conference discussed metamorphosis, change in our everyday lives, how to deal with it and approach it with a new mindset – a topic very applicable for high school students.

“Our overall theme that unites all our speeches is the idea of metamorphosis because we’re high school students and we’re going through a period of time where we see a lot of changes in our life,” junior Keertana Hemuri said. “We wanted to give this kind of theme that everyone could relate to, but also build off of their own experiences.”

Hemuri is the president of TedxVandegrift and started the club in inspiration of her old school’s Tedx club. She founded the club to celebrate the diversity of thought and idea, which she recognized as present throughout Vandegrift. She works closely with six other officers leading events, productions and communication in duos. Out of the seven club leaders, four, including Hemuri, are part of the IB program.

I think both TEDx and IB provide a space for you to open yourself. As teenagers, we all have something to say and sometimes we are not allowed to say it, so programs and clubs like this allow you to express yourself and be heard by other people.

— junior Gal Garcia

In preparation for this conference, TedxVandegrift advertised the idea of speaking by posting flyers throughout the school. They had numerous applicants and were occupied for a week reviewing their candidates’ qualifications.

“It’s a kind of difficult interview process,” junior and communications co-lead Abby Hefele said. “You have to fill out a form and briefly write about what you want to talk about. We want to know how you speak and your charisma in front of other people so you’re going to talk about how you’re going to be relatable, what you’re talking about and how you’re able to wrap that all up in a 10 minute interview. From there, we’ll see if you have potential to be a TED speaker.”

After assessing the candidates through their tedious evaluation process, the officers selected a total of five speakers with varying speech topics. Sophomore Sneha Pulickal discussed the cross between personality and societal expectations, senior Sarah Sheriff shared her experiences with being a part of both athletic and fine art programs, junior Caitlin Garrett explained stories of conquering adversity with passion and bringing an unexpected subject to matter, is junior Ankita Rajesh with her passion for microbiology.

Junior Ankita Rajesh’s hard work pays off as she walks the audience through her microbiology presentation. “I hope it’ll encourage others to make more social connections because it’s so important to our health and not just as a good cheer-me-up,” Rajesh said.
(Submitted Photo)

“I’m a huge fan of microbiology to the point where it’s almost an obsession,” Rajesh said. “Bacteria are some of the oldest life forms on Earth and they have very interesting biological processes that have allowed them to survive for so long, so I talked about how humans can benefit from more social connection in a similar way to how bacteria carry out their biological processes.”

In contrast to Rajesh encouraging socializing, speaker and junior Jack Corlin zoomed in on a few of his personal experiences in order to answer some of the audience’s questions about change.

“I just hope it will help the [audience] contemplate why they do what they do, and think about change in a different way than they previously did,” Corlin said.

Tedx requires organizers to have a license before starting any events, so since the club only got their license in January, it delayed their process. While the club overall has been a success this year, the only change the officers would make to their performance is starting earlier, as speakers only had around 2 weeks to memorize and complete their intricate presentations.

“I wish we would have started earlier to give everyone else more time, both for the speakers and for us,” Garcia said. “The speakers have a set timeline and I can sometimes see that they’re rushing through it.”

To help combat all the chaos among speakers and officers, members of the club have also made significant contributions to the conference’s progress.

“They’re helping us organize the event and they’re volunteering at the event as well,” junior and productions co-lead Pearl Thapar said. “A lot of our members are doing the camera work or taking photos or ticketing.”

Nearing the conference, speakers filled every spare moment of theirs with practice. They had dress rehearsals at Riverbend Church for the full effect, as well as rehearsed at their homes and presented to the officers in the school library for constructive criticism.

“Being backstage, I love knowing what is happening, how it’s happening, seeing the development of the club – especially in this first year, how much it has grown and how much time and effort people have put in,” Garcia said.

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About the Contributor
Aisha Rashid
Aisha Rashid, Editor
Aisha Rashid is a junior, elated to be Feature Editor this year on the Voice. She is the president of the ConnectHER club, secretary of Muslim Culture Club, secretary of NEHS and treasurer of MYNA Austin. In her free time, Aisha loves spending time with family and friends, baking, volunteering and traveling.

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