La Cañada High hosts TEDx event

For those not content to wait on the world to change, La Cañada High School offered an alternative Sunday afternoon, when a panel of students shared their ideas, experiences and visions for a happier, more connected world in a TEDx event that was recorded and will be broadcast online.

The topics presented by 14 student speakers ranged widely — from the importance of arts education to connecting with other cultures through global sports to building relationships with broader social groups — in tone and format.

LCHS student Lisa McNulty presented a spoken word poem on the dangers of perfectionism.

"I am, and always have been, a perfectionist," McNulty began her emotional reading. "To this day, I regard my perfectionism as my greatest failure, because there's nothing more frustrating than reaching for something you cannot grasp."

TED began in 1984 as a conference where innovators in the Technology, Entertainment and Design industries converged in a marketplace of ideas. Today, the nonprofit organization aims to connect people and spark conversations by offering a clearinghouse of free knowledge and ideas.

TEDx allows individual communities to convene in local forums under the banner of the parent organization. Sunday's event was a first for La Cañada Unified School District, according to the district's IT director and former LCHS English teacher Jamie Lewsadder, who organized the event.

Lewsadder decided to host a districtwide TEDx after having success with the format last year, when she asked her English students to create presentations of their ideas. For this larger event, she wanted to bring together students who had a message to share.

It fits the new California Common Core content standards, which ask kids to engage in hands-on learning and share what they learn in their communities.

"It really is about having a wider audience, that it shouldn't just be the teacher," Lewsadder said. "Kids often do what they need for the grade, and I wanted them thinking about topics beyond the classroom."

Students applied for a chance to present, and altogether more than 100 applications and video "auditions" were considered before the final 14 were selected, Lewsadder said.

In her presentation, "Silence is Golden," Selena Zhang talked about the value of quietude in a world gone loud in the technological era.

"Why are we compelled to fill any kind of silence with noise?" Zhang posited. "Sound and silence work in tandem to create meaning. A constant tone of noise makes everything lose meaning."

Allison Salter shared her desire to integrate special education students into mainstream student life, while Robbie Eaton explained a model he made of an environmentally sustainable community using the video game Minecraft.

Kyle Herron, a 2012 LCHS graduate, spoke about burning out his freshman year at St. Mary's College after taking on too many activities and classes. It was community college, something he'd previously thought of as "taboo" that helped him get back on his feet and find a new perspective.

"I thought community college was a place for failures," he confided. "I quickly learned how wrong I was."

Overall, the event was a success, Lewsadder said Sunday as she congratulated the participants.

"I couldn't be more proud of the work you put in to make this happen," she said. "I hope we can do this again next year."

-- Sara Cardine,

Follow on Twitter: @SaraCardine.


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