Exploring the question, “What is our generation’s mission statement?” 13 students will make presentations in the upcoming TEDx Phillips Academy Youth Conference this Saturday. The conference is organized and hosted by Tanvi Kanchinadam ’19 with the help of the Tang Institute and a student-run planning committee. Featuring scheduled student speeches with breaks for discussion in between speeches, the independently organized event is modeled after traditional TED conferences.
“We’ve been mainly working with the Tang Institute, and also the faculty at the library, like Mr. Barker. Other than that, it’s mainly student-organized. We have a planning committee, and all the speeches are student-driven. So other than the Tang Institute we’re pretty much completely student-run,” said Kanchinadam.
Sarah Bakanosky, Tang Institute Project Coordinator, said, “The Tang Institute is doing whatever we can to help Tanvi and the student planning committee get the event up and running. It’s really nice to see the event take the form of a student-run, student-organized event and I’m just here for support. I’m helping with the more logistical aspects. Really anything we can help them out with to make sure it’s a success.”
The event will be focused around the central theme and will cover wide variety of topics, including the Black Lives Matter movement, gentrification, and climate change, according to Kanchinadam.
Kanchinadam said this conference was just the beginning of a longer discussion about education at Andover.
“At the end of the conference, we don’t want you to think about it as an ending. We want you to think about it as the beginning of a new way we can approach learning at Andover,” said Kanchinadam.
“We would love it if these conversations kept going beyond. There are great conversation starters on the 14th. We definitely want that to keep going and be lasting conversations that the students are able to contribute to and think about long after the event is over,” said Bakanosky.
The conference will take place on Saturday, January 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Tang Theater and will also be livestreamed to the Mural Room.
“We encourage students to watch the conference there, or organize their own ‘viewing parties.’ We’d love everyone to use the hashtag #TEDxPAAndover to share thoughts, insights, and ideas about the event,” said Bakanosky
Meet the TEDx Student Speakers
The following features were written by Christina Cho, Gwen Robinson, Newaz Rahman, Riffany Chang, Andie Pinga, Alexandra LeBaron, Will Ennis, and Patricia Thompson
Host: Tanvi Kanchinadam
Tanvi Kanchinadam ’19 first dreamt up the idea of having a TEDx conference at Phillips Academy about a year ago, as a Junior, after being inspired by the organization’s motto, “Ideas worth spreading.” Kanchinadam hopes that student speakers who address the theme “What is our generation’s mission statement?” will provoke further discussions about critical issues in our modern world and how we can work to fix them. Kanchinadam said, “I hope that people continue [these] conversations and allow [these ideas] to grow. I think that the conversations should never just stop at this conference and I hope that this conference is just a starting point for people to really think about what they want their generation to be as opposed to every other generation that’s inhabited this planet… How can we be different? How can we make a positive impact and learn from other people’s mistakes?”
Living in Washington, D.C., gentrification of historic neighborhoods has always been a relevant issue to Makenna Marshall ’18 and her family. Marshall will speak on the issue of gentrification and the difficulties that privilege poses on finding a solution. While writing her speech, Marshall realized that the problem of gentrification may not be as complex as people make it out to be. “I realized… the reason why the problem hadn’t been solved yet wasn’t because the problem itself was tricky, but it was more because people were being difficult,” said Marshall in an interview with The Phillipian. “Reflecting on her own bias about gentrification, Marshall wrote her speech in the hope that Andover students will be able to relate with her struggle on looking at issues from a biased perspective. “The only way you can learn is by putting aside the guilt that comes with having privilege and… being open to making changes,” said Marshall.
Gracie Limoncelli ’18 will discuss the power of storytelling in nursing homes and share the stories she gathered from different residents in an elderly care facility. “A major part of my TED talk was recording people’s stories… [and] one of the hardest parts of writing this entire talk was just trying to figure out what story to use because there were so many wonderful, wonderful stories. Every resident had something incredible to share. You don’t necessarily know anything about their lives from looking at them,” said Limoncelli in an interview with The Phillipian. Through presenting different stories of the elderly, the talk will specifically emphasize the importance of acknowledging and consulting with the past during the process of defining and finding this generation’s mission statement.
In her TEDx talk, Claudia Meng ’18 hopes to look deeper into the ways our generation values innovation and will discuss how society’s obsession with “newness” affects our daily lives. Meng believes that the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who work hard to be innovative in all that they do. “I’ve really been fed the idea that creation is the only method of arriving at something worthwhile, and because of that, I’ve really wanted to delve into the idea of how much value we place on creation just for the sake of creation,” said Meng in an interview with The Phillipian. She will also discuss how our generation’s obsession with gadgets may influence the future. “It’s really about how we, as a group of people, should be interacting with the future, and what our goals should be,” said Meng.
Recognizing social media’s importance in a generation increasingly defined by its internet use, Amiri Tulloch ’18 was inspired to give a talk at Andover’s TEDx event on social media activism and the black community. “This generation is creating and thriving in so many ways. Social media shouldn’t be cast off as something where little kids go and communicate, but actually a real cause of change and a tangible force,” Tulloch said in an interview with The Phillipian. A user himself, Tulloch will explore Twitter specifically as a platform for black activism. Tulloch appreciates the opportunity to share his views with the Andover community. “TEDx is something that everybody has heard of in the educational world, and it’s so fascinating to actually be involved in it and I hope that the Andover community can not only embrace it this year, but for future years too,” said Tulloch.
Inspired by both her father’s work and a conference she attended earlier this school year, Andie Pinga ’19 will discuss world hunger and its root causes during her TEDx presentation this weekend. “Hunger is related to many factors and interconnected to many drivers of poverty, [like] malnutrition… When you’re malnourished you’re not able to earn as much income… there is this cycle of poverty that people are stuck in because they don’t have adequate food and adequate nutrition,” said Pinga in an interview with The Phillipian. Pinga believes that solving hunger will allow other problems such as poverty to be addressed. Doing so will allow for people in agricultural communities to perform at a higher level. “When you focus on nutrition, and when you give nutritious food to these children, you are investing in the future of our world because they will grow up, and they will grow up to be the managers of our world,” said Pinga.
Concerned with the common inclination to categorize people and things, Sarah Stack ’19 will present the drawbacks of thinking in binary terms in her TEDx talk. “A lot of people are told or think about things as either a right or wrong. Good or bad, yes or no. Some people are labeled as things like you’re either good at math or bad at math. Or a Republican or Democrat. Or a girl or boy, and there is no in between,” said Stack in an interview with The Phillipian. Stack said that she hopes to help the Andover community move beyond binaries. “I thought that TEDx would be a good platform for sharing my ideas. I wanted more people to think… [about] this idea of binaries and moving beyond binaries. Thinking, instead of [giving] one answer or another answer, would be beneficial for the Andover community,” said Stack.
In her TEDx talk, Leeza Petrov ’18 will focus on deconstructing overachievement culture. Petrov suggests that our generation must learn to view ambition, competition, and achievement in a healthier and more positive way. Petrov said, “Sooner or later we’re going to enter college, and were going to enter the workforce, and we’re going to enter the real world, and we’re going to have to be equipped with the tools that we need, not just to succeed and get all these meaningless achievements,” said Petrov. “But if you come into the real world with the mindset that I need to do this, to get this… and don’t really take time to look back and reflect on your accomplishments, you’re not going to lead a very fulfilled life… it just comes down to the fact that we need to equip ourselves with the proper tools to enter the real world and be successful and happy,” continued Petrov.
During a visit to India in middle school, Vish Dhar ’19 almost got into a car accident due to the brown smokescreen created by fog and pollution. This near-miss marked his first personal encounter with dangerous climate change. Three years later, Dhar is taking the TEDx stage to give his talk on climate change and the current generation. “It turns out that global climate change is probably going to be the greatest issue of our time and for our generation… If it’s not our mission as young people to solve that problem, I don’t know what other issue is,” said Dhar in an interview with The Phillipian. Dhar hopes that his talk will encourage students to utilize the power of social media and the internet to speak up about climate change. “You should go out into your community and educate people who don’t understand that this is a serious issue,” said Dhar.
A passion sparked in Nick Toldalagi ’18 when he read Klaus Schwab’s “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that his dad placed on his desk a few months ago. “When people say ‘economic,’ it always sounds boring, but these things can be really interesting and not that difficult to understand for kids our age. And it’s really easy for us to use the internet to learn about them… and form your own opinions and solutions on them,” said Toldalagi in an interview with The Phillipian. On the edge of our next technological revolution, Toldalagi believes that people should recognize economic challenges that follow this major shift. He describes how Andover students especially are uniquely equipped to think big and solve these problems. “In previous times when we had these big areas of transition… some countries have suffered… we should be able to recognize these challenges ahead and be proactive about it,” said Toldalagi.
Kevin Sun ’18 will be discussing the importance of finding opportunities in one’s life and sharing them with others. As the younger brother in his family, he often felt like he was living in his brother’s shadow, and it took him some time to find enough confidence to take risks. His speech focuses on him stepping out of his comfort zone while creating and running a hackathon for Andover students last fall. Beyond simply organizing the hackathon, his TEDx talk will follow his own journey of growth and the way in which stepping out of his comfort zone has changed him as a person. He also thinks that by pushing their own boundaries, students should help others do the same. “Running this large-scale Hackathon, I just wanted to personally take some time to reflect on why I started in the first place. I think our generation needs to discover new things and step out of our boundaries, but also be able to share them with others,” said Sun.
As a Junior, Tessa Conrardy ’20 is a long way away from the college application process, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t already witnessed how applications affect the choices Andover students make. In her TEDx presentation, she will share some of the observations she has made about the way other kids select their extracurriculars both while applying to Andover and after arriving here. She thinks kids should be more concerned with what they want to do than what they think they’ll have to do to appear impressive. “We are literally a college preparatory school, so I think especially here sometimes it’s good to just slow down and say, ‘hey, maybe I will do this purely for the purpose of enjoying it and not have to think about how I could put [it] on a bullet list of the things that I’ve done in my life,’ ”said Conrardy.
Olivia Lai ’20 doesn’t want Asian-Americans to be negatively affected by external stereotypes. In her TEDx Talk, she will discuss the destructive pressures of model-minority stereotypes and their effects on Asian-Americans. “Because Asian-Americans are always seen as good at math, all playing musical instruments, there’s this certain pressure to live up to a standard, and when you don’t [live up to the standard] there’s definitely a negative effect on your emotional well-being… that’s an incredible amount of stress to live under,” she said. Lai plans to continue advocating for solutions to a growing mental-health problem among Asian-Americans who she says need more support. She hopes that her TEDx Talk will help to raise awareness of a topic she thinks needs to be discussed more. “I want people to recognize that this pressure exists because no one really recognizes it and I feel like the problems of Asian-Americans aren’t seen as as important as the problems of any other racial group,” said Lai.
As president of the Robotics Club on campus, Gherardo Morona ’17 has worked with robots to increase their “brain” power, all the while keeping an eye on the constant development in the field of artificial intelligence. To Morona, the major theme of this generation will be technology, specifically artificial intelligence. In his TEDx Talk, Morona hopes to bring a more dimensional approach to the topic of artificial intelligence: challenging the often negative portrayal of artificial intelligence in popular culture and shedding light on the companies and individuals who are heavily invested in it. “It’s a very controversial topic. People are oftentimes scared and worried from seeing science fiction movies and popular media,” said Morona. “In science fiction movies, you’ve seen, probably, the program with the machine going against humanity — this story about [a robot takeover] is told very often… I want to talk about how as Andover students [we can] tackle [the issue].”