I used to think I couldn’t get out of hell: Chicago public school students react to TEDxYouth@Midwest
Earlier this month, 450 Chicago public school sophomores and juniors, plus 120 of their teachers, crowded into the city’s Harris Theater for TEDxYouth@Midwest, an event all about inspiring, motivating and empowering the young people of a city known for youth gun violence, but full of so much more — culture, history, educators and students dedicated to helping their city thrive.
Chicago’s public schools have been a fixture in the news lately. 54 schools in the city are slated to close in 2013, and according to reports in The Chicago Tribune, the 2011-12 school year brought the highest number of public school students affected by gunfire since 2008. Twenty-four students were killed; 319 students shot.
At TEDxYouth@Midwest, organizers strove to turn the focus from problems, and keep it focused on the potential. 17 speakers addressed the audience, including people like guerrilla gardener Ron Finley, who is planting gardens in South Central LA; Dr. Benjamin Harrison, a researcher working on growing replacement tissue for patients who have lost their own; and Chicago native Zoe Damacela, who started her own apparel line as a high school student in the city.
This year, TEDxYouth@Midwest launched their TEDxMidwest Youth Connections Program, a project pairing TEDxYouth@Midwest students with career experiences designed to open the doors to potential careers — from job shadowing to summer internships to discussions with local entrepreneurs. Through the program, 35 TEDxYouth@Midwest student attendees found summer internships and, next year, the team at TEDxYouth@Midwest hopes to raise that number to 100.
“The event was levels better because of the students’ infectious energy, and its potential to really have a life-changing effect on hundreds of kids and teachers,” said organizer Mike Hettwer. “The speakers were so motivated to speak there.”
The immediate effects of the event shone in students’ responses to comment cards asking how their thinking changed throughout the event. Some of their responses are truly incredible. A sampling:
I used to think… “That once you made a bad decision, that was it for you. People say you write your life’s story in ink — if you make a mistake there is no way to erase it. You are done!”
Now I think… “That I should no longer aim for perfection, but rather strive for success. Success is not measured by how many times you fall, but actually choosing to get up once more then you fall.”
I used to think…”That you have to use violence in order to make peace.”
Now I think… “But I realize that I can use peace to make peace.”
I used to think… “That because I am considered a minority, I would not be able to do amazing things I really want to do.”
Now I think… “That I can do anything I set my mind to if I do not let anything hold me back. Only I can prevent myself from achieving my goals and my passion.”
I used to think… “I couldn’t get out of Hell.”
Now I think… “I can with Mellody Hobson’s speech.”
I used to think… “I was one of the few teenagers passionate about science.”
Now I think… “TED is all about diversity of ideas and other people are as passionate about science as I am.”
I used to think… “If you come from a broken home, would live in a broken future.”
Now I think… “You can shape your own future and get away from the brokeness.”
I used to think… “This was going to be a long boring program with weird snacks.”
Now I think… “This experience has been the best experience in my whole entire life.”
Inspiring like no other.
Post with 5 notes
So grateful to have them in my life.
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
We spend our lives trying to build ourselves into something that other people think that we should be…From a very early age, we’re taught to turn down that honesty knob, and turn up the one on polite — and it’s no wonder that by the time we get to be adults we can’t honestly tell anyone around us who we are, what we love, and what we’re feeling…
So tell me this — when are you going to admit that there is something glorious about being you?…so that you don’t have to wake up every morning and walk on eggshells, and you can look at something that you built because you love it, and it’s honest and true to who you are.
Every December I always get excited to see who Time will name Person of the Year. I’m not sure if it’s the concept or the predecessors on the list who fascinate me more but it’s always so exciting to know that every year another identity will be placed in history. I have to admit, I thought this year was a bit of a let down; President Obama is a great man but I think there were other people on that list that might have been more deserving. My vote definitely goes to the runner-up, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who is a symbol for the struggle for women’s rights all over the world. I also think repeating presidents is sort of a cop-out answer…but just an opinion!
Anyway, here’s to you, Mr. President.
Post with 2 notes
I haven’t said much because I’m not good at expressing my thoughts and feelings when it comes to things like this. The first death was a boy who lived in my freshman dorm; we weren’t very close but we did exchange friendly hellos and we knew each other’s faces. I knew his best friend pretty well and some of his other closer friends; watching them grieve made it so much more personal. The second death was a girl studying abroad in London. No one knows how, when, or where exactly. She’s a member of Chi Omega and a member of our greek community. I can’t imagine losing a sister like that. My heart goes out to the women of Chi Omega; may she rest in peace.
Stay strong Northwestern.
Or at least I must have that mindset. For if it’s not, I lack purpose; and with out purpose I have no direction.
I need direction with a purpose to make sure every day is the most important one yet.
Someone make sure I’m on track.
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
In honor of Veterans Day, Louis Mitchell, our Associate Design Director of Special Projects, created the painting above, and presented it to the United War Veterans Council. There’s a really cool gif of it being created, but it’s too big for tumblr, so go here.
Page 1 of 60