Ann Arbor’s Own Ted Talks

In a room with high ceilings and wall to wall windows, the 14 gifted students laughed, spoke, and rehearsed. The green screen was down, and the camera rolling. For the last eight months, these students have been working towards a common goal: these students are bringing Ted Talks to Ann Arbor.

On March 22, Ann Arbor will play host to its first ever TedX Event. The ‘X’ signifies the event is local and organized by community members, and all X events are sanctioned by the international Ted organization. With all these “Teds,” it gets a little confusing. Ted Talks have been held annually since 1990, and are a platform for thinkers to share their ideas. Now Ted is encouraging more local events through TedX.

It is mind-boggling to realize the amount of work that has gone into the planning of this TedX. The event will be held at Skyline High School and will last all day, starting at eight in the morning. Twenty-four speakers and performers will take the stage that Saturday, and at periods the audience will be asked to gather outside the auditorium and discuss the ideas and dreams they have heard. All performers are high school students from the Ann Arbor area. The speeches are widely varied–there will be two poets, a musician, and a combined dance and talk.

Ann Arbor will know what the performers think on March 22. For now, the story of the organizers, all of them public and private high school students, is what should be on stage. The 12 student planners, from Community, Pioneer, Skyline, Huron, Rudolf Steiner, and Gabriel Richard, have been working since June.

Emilie Weisberg, a senior at Skyline, came up with the idea for a Ted Talk in Ann Arbor. She sought advice from Dr. Sara Duvall, a media specialist at Skyline who has mentored the organizers. But Duvall emphasizes how much this is a student run event through and through. And it’s pretty amazing what these students have accomplished.

At their first meeting in June, the 14 students committed to working towards the Ann Arbor Ted Talks.

“I love watching Ted Talks, and I thought it would be the coolest thing to be on the other side of that,” said Chelsea Racelis, a Pioneer senior.

Soon after, the organizers split into different committees: The Pub-fund committee responsible for sponsorship; the Speaker’s committee charged with actually finding performers; the Tech committee for the event; and the Hospitality committee to make sure the day runs smoothly. So much thought and action has gone into Ann Arbor’s first TedX event, that it is hard to imagine it’ll be anything less than stunning.

Each one of the organizers found their own connection to the Talks. “I’m very into seeing ideas that people have and the way that they present them,” said Katie Taub, a senior from Community. Now with two months until the event, all of the organizers come together for two hours every Sunday, not including work in their own committees. They have spent a crazy amount of time trying to make these talks amazing.

Racelis and Taub (along with Steven Mitchell, a senior from Gabriel Richard) are on the Speaker’s committee, and were responsible for choosing the performers that will talk on March 22. Through two days of auditions last December, they got to see a lot of talent from Ann Arbor, and made some hard decisions. Since December they have been working individually with each speaker coaching them for the big day.

Each performer must have their speech memorized; they must orate their ideas with ease and effectiveness, something hard to do in front of 500 people. To get the speakers comfortable and crowd-ready has been a big job for the committee.

Now Weisberg, Racelis, Taub, Mitchell, and the other organizers are entering the home stretch, starting to see a beautiful end to something they have worked incredibly hard for. Ted Talks are about listening to new ideas and debating them. With a TedX event, a community can come together in a rare way. There will be many ideas and a lot of debate on March 22. The work that has gone into this inaugural event insures that the Talks will be worth your time. It was worth eight months to them.