Park City students share TEDx talks
Sadie Ortiz stood with her legs shaking, listening to the muffled applause as the student presenting before her stepped off the stage. Her heart was beating in her ears, but she walked to the center of the stage, looked into the bright lights and began.
At the TEDxYouth event on Nov. 15 at the Eccles Center, Ortiz and 21 other Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High students presented TEDx talks (Technology, Education, Design) to a full audience. The event, which is sponsored by the Park City Institute, has taken place for four years. Students prepare short speeches that are meant to “spread ideas,” which they come up with and write themselves, said Teri Orr, executive director of the Park City Institute.
Ortiz, a junior at the high school, spoke about stereotypes, something that she has experienced throughout her life.
“I’ve always wanted to put out there something about how to break stereotypes, I just never knew how to,” she said. “Having TEDx gave me that opportunity to not only step out of my comfort zone, but to present something to people that I wanted them to know. That, no, this is not right. I wanted people to understand me and my culture and where I come from and my people.”
Other students spoke about personal experiences as well, then broadened the issues and called the audience to action. Adam Herbst, a senior, for instance, discussed domestic violence in his talk because he was affected by abuse in his younger years.
During the speech, he said that popular TV shows and music promote domestic abuse, and society supports it by watching and listening.
“It’s not just media, it’s all of us,” he said. “What we must do is stop normalizing this behavior.”
Herbst first listened to TEDx speeches two years ago at the school and decided he wanted to participate before graduating. After missing the deadline last year, he made sure to be first in line to sign up. It was his last chance.
“I noticed that they had a big impact for some students in the audience,” he said. “And now that they are uploading them onto the internet, they can have a large impact for students around the country and around the world.”
While he may not know the full extent of his impact, Herbst did speak to a parent who approached him to thank him after. She had recently reported domestic abuse happening to one of her daughter’s friends, and was second guessing her decision. Hearing Herbst reminded her that she had done the right thing.
The students can incite change with their words, but they also benefit by honing their presentation literacy skills, Orr said.
“To be successful in the world, to be able to speak in a convincing fashion and to have the wherewithal to be on the stage — because a board room is a stage, making a pitch to someone is a stage — it’s all real-world experience,” she said.
In the lead up to the event, the students met two to three times a week with Orr and other Park City Institute staff, listening to feedback and perfecting their speeches.
During that month, Kacie Silkey, a senior at Park City High School, took her feedback and decided to change her original speech completely. She ended up speaking about discrimination and economic divides in the education system. She said the staff and fellow students were all supportive of her switch. They helped her further develop her opinions and have the confidence to share them.
“I grew up a lot in very conservative areas where voicing your opinions about things was not tolerated,” she said. “My weapons are my words and what I can use to impact the people around me. In the coming years, I’ve grown very confident about my opinions and I want to share it with other people in a way that I haven’t been able to before.”
Editor’s note: Teri Orr is a former editor and columnist for The Park Record.
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