The Kids Are Alright: TEDxYouth@AnnArbor features talks from A2 high school students


Mallika Kothari at 2018 TEDxYouth@AnnArbor

Mallika Kothari, an 11th grader at Skyline High School, during her 2018 TEDxYouth@AnnArbor talk "Plastic: Taking the Fresh Out of Freshwater."

Teens often feel unheard and misunderstood. Their brains are still developing, life is changing quickly, and they're trying to make sense of being on the edge of adulthood.

TEDxYouth@AnnArbor is a platform where students get to express themselves freely about social and political issues, in a well-produced setting using the popular TEDx style of presentation, which has spawned numerous viral videos.

This year's TEDxYouth@AnnArbor takes place Saturday, April 13, at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor. I emailed with Eugene Lee, a senior at Skyline High School and the youth curator for TEDxYouth@AnnArbor, to find out about this year's event.

Q: When did the TEDxYouth series start and when did it come to Ann Arbor?
A: TEDxYouth is a type of local TEDx event that is specifically organized by and geared toward young people. Currently, there are hundreds of TEDxYouth programs around the world, each identified by the tag @ followed by the specific community. TEDxYouth@AnnArbor -- our program specifically -- started out as a small part of Skyline High School's Student Activism Senate. Throughout the years we were able grow into an independent organization while branching out to all the high schools in the Ann Arbor community. 

Q: How do the students go about applying to do a talk? Do their teachers encourage them? Is it something they do of their own volition?
A: All students in the Ann Arbor community are invited to audition to talk at our annual event. Although the audition dates vary each year, they are typically held in the winter. While some teachers do encourage their students to audition for a TED talk, most of our speakers have found our program entirely through their own interest. 

2015 TEDxYouth@AnnArbor crew

The crew from the 2015 TEDxYouth@AnnArbor.

Q: How are the students "taught" to do a TEDx talk? Do you provide guidelines? Coaching? Do you point them to any particular TEDx talks for reference?
A: Our organization has five committees: tech, art and design, speakers, hospitality, and marketing. Once the student has been chosen to be a speaker at our event, they are paired with a mentor from our speakers committee. Throughout the months leading up to the event, the mentors and speakers work closely together on the speaker's TED Talk. Essentially, the mentors guide and prepare their speakers to help them best get their message across. This year we have been referencing Alexa Easter's "The Art of Grief" from our 2018 event as an example of a good talk. 

Q: How do you go about selecting who makes the final cut for the conference?
A: We tend to review each audition holistically. There are many factors that play into our reviewing process such as originality of the idea/talk, voice, passion, and performance. We also conduct a short interview during the audition to get a better idea of these aspects. 

Q: Have any of the past TEDxYouth@A2 participants gone on to do an adult TEDx talk?

A: While we have not heard news of our former organizers or speakers giving a TED talk after TEDxYouth, we do know that most go on to participate in TEDx programs -- mostly organizing -- at the college level. 

Christopher Porter is a library technician and the editor of Pulp.

TEDxYouth@AnnArbor takes place Saturday, April 13, 10 am-5 pm, at Skyline High School, 2552 N. Maple Rd., Ann Arbor. Tickets and more info is at