Youth share personal stories during TEDxYouth event

Bianca Barajas speaks on stage at the Eccles Center for Performing Arts during the annual TEDx Park City event on Wednesday, November 14, 2018.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Jessica Hinojos was frustrated with the negative rhetoric she was hearing about immigrants.

So, she decided to take to the stage and tell the stories of her own immigrant parents, who crossed the Mexican border in search of a better life.

She was one of 12 students who gave a speech during the TEDxYouth event last week at Park City High School. Each student spoke about a topic they were passionate about. Their ideas were diverse, but there was a definite theme of understanding other people’s stories and feeling empathy for them.

Hinojos, a freshman, shared the account of her mother, who she said crossed the border legally, and her father, who came dangerously close to death while attempting to cross. She said she signed up to give a TEDx talk because she said Mexicans were being discriminated against and she felt an obligation to speak up.

“I see a lot of discrimination around the world. People say that Mexicans are criminals,” she said following her speech. “I wanted to tell the world that people aren’t like that, and my parents are an example of this and they fight for what they want.”

Taking a few minutes to give human faces and identities to the people crossing the border made her feel like she was taking action, she said.

Susana Ramirez, a sophomore, spoke about the struggles she and her family faced while living in and fleeing from Venezuela, while Christopher Mora, a senior, discussed the difficulties immigrants face to attend and pay for college.

His parents are also immigrants, and they did not graduate from either high school or college, he said. “School is hard, applying for college is hard, but applying for college and going to school in a home where education and language is limited is even harder,” he said during his speech.

Everything is even more complicated when students are undocumented, he said.

Stacey Sayers, community outreach coordinator for the Park City Institute and a co-organizer of the event, said she was proud of how “courageous and brave” the students were to share personal stories, especially since the vast majority of them were sophomores. The TEDx event is beneficial because it allows students to stand up and share something with the world that they believe in, she said. Video of the talks is posted online every year.

“I think it’s a platform where they can share their ideas with other people, and they don’t always get that,” she said. “They can share an idea from start to finish, uninterrupted.”

She also said the students practice deep thinking, and she said she loves seeing the students grow from the experience.

They spend multiple weeks writing and perfecting their speeches.

Emma Izzo, a sophomore, who spoke about the value of experiences, said it was amazing to see how she and other students improved their speaking skills. That was one of her biggest takeaways.

Sophia Simmons, a sophomore, loved having a captivated audience. She based her speech on a quote from Maya Angelou, which says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” She wanted to talk with her peers about the importance of taking accountability for one’s actions and being conscious of how others might interpret words or actions.

Having the opportunity to share her own words with the school and hear about what is important to her peers left an impact on her.

“Everyone has their own story and it is unique to them,” she said.


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