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The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

Best of SNO

The best stories being published on the SNO Sites network

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TEDx CherryCreekHS Aims to Engage, Include Bruins

Peter Philpott
Author and social strategist Nick Shelton gives his talk at the 2023 TEDxCherryCreekHS event, hosted by now freshman Michael Zhang when he was an eighth grader at Campus Middle School. “I felt really comfortable up there,” Shelton said.

TEDx CherryCreekHS, a project led by freshman Michael Zhang, is going live at the Parker Arts Schoolhouse theater on Aug. 31. His goal: to reach out to the students and faculty of Creek, and get them involved in the speeches and the audience.

Zhang led the same event as a Campus Middle School eighth grader. Now he’s returning to TEDx in high school.

TED events provide a platform for professionals to speak about their “ideas worth spreading,” but they can only be held by the company itself. But with TEDx, one of the TED’s divisions, anyone qualified can apply to host an event.

As it is his goal to include more students and faculty from his own environment, he’s also granting free admission to those at Creek. “I feel like students could benefit from it because they can spread their ideas, and we’ll help spread them.” Zhang said. “And we’ll help spread them. Once you’re a successful TEDx speaker, that’s a really big achievement.”

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Zhang gave a talk in 2023 at TEDx CherryCreek Youth about video game addiction, and the empowerment he found from it encouraged the events he hosts now.

“TEDx made me more confident, it made me a better speaker…and it was just a great experience for me,” he said. “It’s really unique, so I feel like pretty much everyone who attends or speaks at it will benefit from it.”

Social strategist and author Nick Shelton spoke at Zhang’s event last year about social anxiety. Shelton found the same comfort in TED. Despite his own nerves, and the topic of his talk, he found it cathartic and gratifying to speak to so many people.

“It was exhilarating. It was fun. I felt alive and connected. But, at the same time, relieved that with all of that preparation, I finally get to share that message,” Shelton said. “I was excited to share the message that I’ve trained so long to share and…it felt really good.”

“I think it’s a really great platform and a really great opportunity that it’s right there,” Shelton said. “This is an opportunity that very few people get, and so if they can take advantage of it and not overlook this opportunity, they can get their message out there.”

Zhang wanted to give students this chance because of all that Creek has done for him. “All the resources and the people that are here have helped me through a lot of stuff,” he said. “My friends helped me a lot just to get through school.”

Applications are up on the event’s website for all. So far, Zhang has been discouraged with a lack of Creek applicants, but other students from around the country have shown a willingness to participate. One such student, freshman Claire Xu from the Harker School in San Jose, California, is excited to work on the event.

“I was introduced to Michael when I found that he has hosted these TEDx events, which I thought was really cool,” Xu said. “He definitely gives [students] a lot of opportunities to express their ideas, which is crucial.”

With a background and a passion for science fairs, Xu plans to speak about AI, or about bettering communication between neurotypical and neurodivergent people.

“I was a child, seven years old when I was first introduced to TEDx,” she said. “I started science fairs in middle school, and today, I’m really passionate about being able to find an issue or a gap and then being able to find a creative solution to solve that.”

Zhang hopes that passionate speakers like her and Shelton can drive his event to success.

“From my experience, the audience, the speaker, your peers, the coaches, everyone is extremely supportive,” he said. “You learn a lot from the process and the actual speech. You’re giving your original ideas to the public.”

Thomas Eckschmidt, civil engineer and applicant to the 2024 event, believes that students are the country’s bright future, which is why young people need to get involved with leadership and TED. “The change is not going to start from the top to the bottom. It’s gonna start from the bottom up,” Eckschmidt said.

Peter Philpott

This story was originally published on Union Street Journal on May 10, 2024.