SMU hosted its 10th annual TEDxKids@SMU Friday, Oct 19 in McFarlin Auditorium to bring middle school students from North Texas together to provoke curiosity, critical thinking and inspiration.
TEDx is the local, self-organized version of a traditional TED Talk. It allows people from around the world to organize TED-style events in their communities in order to spark discussions and connections. TEDxKids@SMU is the first TED-style conference made especially for kids.
“To apply, the kids have to submit some type of project related to the theme, and it’s up to their imagination,” chaperone Ms. Lee said. “They can create a video, PowerPoint; they can write an essay. And it’s around the given topic each year.”
The executive director of the event, Heather Hankamer, said the purpose of this event was “to present ideas in the TED format to introduce students to topics and ideas that expand their knowledge.”
“Each year the topic goes around a certain theme. This year is about the future and what they see in their future,” Ms. Lee said. “It’s a great way to absorb a lot of information.”
McFarlin Auditorium was jam-packed. There were around 700 middle school students, 100 high school volunteers, and 100 teachers and chaperones. The adults and chaperones were asked to sit in the balcony, while children stayed on the main floor near the stage.
“We had an opportunity to come today and I thought it would be a great opportunity for my daughter to expand her horizons and find out different perspectives on different issues,” said Leitha, a mother seated in the balcony.
Pop songs played loudly across the auditorium, while kids screamed and cheered together. The host of the event was a slam poet, Joaquin Zihuatanejo. Joaquin got the crowd ready by telling jokes.
Almost all of the adult speakers were from minorities, and they created a relatable space for the students in the room. Adults empowered students by talking about being the next generation of leaders for this country, never saying no, connecting with people who are different, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and becoming the person you want to be.
“The apple can fall far from the tree and that’s perfectly okay,” speaker Melanie Calzada said.
Each speaker gave a plan of action for the students to actually achieve their goals.
16-year-old Neha Jayarajan talked about how she grew up as privileged and wealthy. She initially didn’t want to engage with impoverished people, until she realized the learning experience that comes with stepping out of your bubble.
“Once you get over that initial hump of discomfort, the rest is history,” Jayarajan said. “So stand with me and burst your bubbles instead of blowing them.”
After the lunch break, the kids got to go on stage for an open mic opportunity. They told jokes, danced, and even rapped. Four students came out and made everyone in the crowd do the wave. The children never lost their energy and excitement.
The second half of the event consisted of heavier topics, such as physical abuse, mental health, and gun laws.
The last speaker was 14-year old James Thompson, who talked about what it’s like living as a kid in a world where school shootings are something he has to be prepared for. He promoted youth activism and youth power.
“The future is us,” he said.
The event ended on a happy note with the Mustang Mavericks doing a Western dance on stage.
The event aimed to address students in a relatable way, which allowed students to be more receptive to the information being told on stage. They had a variety of adult figures to look up to, as well as wise kids with lots of potential.