Several months ago, as I was skimming our local newspaper, I noticed a story about an upcoming TEDx event right here in my town. The speakers all sounded amazing, but what caught my eye at that moment was the last sentence of the article: Interested volunteers should email TEDxAshburn with a description of their area of expertise which they may offer in exchange for a complimentary ticket to the event.
I immediately emailed the organizer to offer up my writing skills and was thrilled to receive a response a few days later from the event’s Volunteer Coordinator, Adina Popa, accepting me. They even gave me an official title: Storyteller.
So here’s the story of what it was like to attend TEDxAshburn.
As a volunteer we were instructed to arrive at 7:30am. Lucky for me, the facility where the event was taking place was located a mere seven minutes from my house. The air was cool as I hopped into my car, cell and ipad mini fully charged in my bag along with a stack of business cards so I could network with all the brilliant minds who would be attending. With my small notebook and pen I felt almost like a journalist on assignment, except instead of simply reporting on the news of the day, I’d also have the chance to experience it first-hand.
A blazing orange sunrise was apparent on the horizon as I pulled into the parking lot, a thick collection of heavy gray clouds hung in the sky but there would be no dampening the day ahead.
I checked in with the organizers and helped to distribute the programs onto the seats which would soon be filled with attendees. When that task was complete the only thing left to do was wait for the excitement to begin since the team putting on the show was so well organized. Speaking with several other volunteers before the conference attendees began to arrive helped to calm my nerves a bit.
We were treated to a catered breakfast and before we knew it the event Co-Hosts, Janet Platenberg and Barb Gruber were kicking of the event by introducing the first speaker.
The audience was captivated from the start with the beautiful and elegant voice and interpretative patter on the correlations between love and physics from an actress/singer/writer with a unique one-woman show which is currently touring the US.
Throughout the day my eyes were opened on a wide variety of topics – from how students are being challenged in the classroom by the innovative use of technology, to how a teenager invented an incredible dipstick-like test for the rapid and early detection of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers, to one woman’s determination to finish college and support her baby girl after her teenage pregnancy devastated her family and how it became her mission to educate and support teen parents in their efforts to earn their college degrees.
An accomplished basketball coach turned sports broadcaster taught us all her proven recipe for success in life. We got to hear what it was like for a guy who had never slept in a tent to accomplish what seemed like an impossible mission at the start – climbing Mt. Everest and how he collaborated with a pioneer in global education technology to bring his experience into classrooms across the world in real-time.
An award-winning principal shared his secret to disciplined, focused learning through new elementary school initiatives put into practice at his school, and we were reminded that we need to nurture entrepreneurship in our kids because they are the future and it can start with a simple lemonade stand at the age of six.
Being at TEDxAshburn was like being at a musical/scientific/business/educational/technology idea-sharing summit. The energy and inspiration buzzing through the air was contagious from beginning to end. The creative sparks flew and entrepreneurial take-aways emerged from one presentation to the next.
But it wasn’t just the presenters who had cutting-edge ideas to share. I had just as much fun networking with the other attendees and learning about their backgrounds and current projects as I did talking with the speakers themselves in-between sessions.
I learned that everyone has a story to tell, and although the entire day was filled with deeply inspiring, educational and motivational talks, the one I most connected with was J. Ivy for the sole reason that we share the same passion in life: writing.
We were fortunate enough to get to hear him speak not once, but twice during the day. Since there was some down time in between two talks for equipment setup, J took the stage a second time and we were again mesmerized by his poetry and performance on the mic.
All of the talks were professionally recorded and will be available for viewing online in the near future. I’ll be sure to alert my readers via Facebook and Twitter once the videos are uploaded onto the TEDxAshburn website.
While you wait, here’s an old performance of one of the poems J. Ivy performed this weekend:
I want to extend my gratitude to all the organizers and speakers for truly “Making It Happen” at TEDxAshburn. It was a day I’ll always remember as I aspire to someday stand on that same stage with the red lights shining brightly behind me as I share my story and my feelings on why I believe it’s important for us to talk openly and honestly about mental illness in this country. And across the world, for that matter.
In the meantime, This Is My Brave will be my practice.