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First annual TED Talk held at Sun Valley

It was an exciting day at Sun Valley High School on Friday, January 31 as five speakers from grades ten through twelve took the stage to share their thoughts on varying topics inspired by the TED Talk mission to research and discover "ideas worth spreading".  

In the spirit of sharing ideas and experiences, Sun Valley English teacher and National English Honor Society Chapter Advisor Christine Soring coordinated the event. 

"I started public speaking contests at my previous schools and they were a huge success," Soring noted.  "I wanted to start something like that at Sun Valley.  When I met with Mr. Sasse to pitch the idea, he suggested doing it in the TEDx format so that it allowed students to talk about a variety of ideas rather than one public speaking topic."

Risk TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.  

Past speakers at the official TEDx include Bill Clinton, Sean M. Carroll, Elon Musk, Ray Dalio, Cédric Villani, Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Temple Grandin, Shahrukh Khan, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Billy Graham, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Gates, Dolph Lundgren, Bob Weir, Shashi Tharoor, Bono, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Leana Wen, Pope Francis, and many Nobel Prize winners.*

Five students were chosen for the inaugural event. Kayla Blackstock, Crystal Ambroselli, Kara Taylor (all grade 12) joined 11th grade student Randy Park and 10th grade student Genevieve Closs in presenting their talks on subjects they chose themselves.   

"Students follow the TED Talk format," explained Soring. "They were directed to the Topics page of the TED website to find inspiration for an idea. Many of the students already knew that they wanted to talk about something personal. Each talk is 10-12 minutes long."

Kara Taylor talked about Anxiety and ways to manage and overcome it.  While challenged by the experience, Taylor felt that it was a great benefit that helped her grow as a speaker.  

"Once I knew I wanted anxiety to be my topic, it was easy to prepare my presentation," she said. "It felt weird to present, but afterward I felt relieved and accomplished."

Crystal Ambroselli was fearful to present her talk My Story as it dealt with a subject that she felt was often ignored:  teen pregnancy from the perspective of the mother.  As a young woman who had the experience, Ambroselli was unsure how her talk would be received.

"I was so nervous to present," she explained, "but once I started talking, all of my fears went away."  

The actual craft of speaking turned out to be challenging.

"The most difficult part of the experience was controlling my pace while presenting, and trying not to allow my anxiety to get to me."

The additional three talks included: Risk Taking and The Correlation to Success by Randy Parks, Pop Music Sounds the Same by Kayla Blackstock, and Bowling by Genevieve Closs. 

To add some excitement, Soring was able to secure two scholarships to offer winning talks.  

"Since I grew up in the district and now work in district, my parents wanted to give back," explained Soring.  "My parents, Kurt and Patty Soring, wanted to provide the scholarships for this annual event."

Three judges and fellow teachers (Dan Hill, Kat Phelps, and Allison Burns) determined the winners using a rubric that the speakers also received to build their talks. This rubric included scoring on presentation, dress, content, voice and eye contact, and inspiration/subject matter.

There was a 1st and 2nd place scholarship, with the other participants winning a gift card. In addition, all students received a Certificate of Participation ackowledging their effort.   The final tallies delivered a tie, and Crystal Ambroselli and Kara Taylor were each awarded $150 for their educational endeavors. 

Sun Valley Principal Pat Sasse, who suggested the TED format, attended the event and was pleased with the outcome.

"I’m proud of Ms. Soring for taking the initiative to develop this program as a creative outlet for students here at Sun Valley," he said.  "Ted Talks have proven to promote open minds, innovative ideas, and overall awareness for all of those involved. We are so happy that this is kicking off this year at Sun Valley and we are eager to see its impact on our school climate and culture for the future.” Ted photo align =

Superintendent Dr. George Steinhoff, who also attended, agreed that the format was something he hoped students would continue going forward. 

“An event like a student-led Ted Talk is more evidence that our schools care deeply about getting our students Ready for Life. I was especially impressed by the quality of the student presentations and hope the talk will become an annual event.”

Students who participated felt that it was a worthwhile endeavor to prepare and share.

"The most rewarding part of the experience was being able to share my story and to show that even when unexpected things happen, you are able to adapt to the situation at hand," said Ambroselli.  

Taylor was grateful for the skills she developed.

"The most rewarding part for me was being able to try out public speaking and to learn from that experience," she said.

Soring plans to continue the program as an annual event.

"There has never been an event like this at Sun Valley where students from different grade levels create inspirational and personal talks to share with their peers," she explained.

"I hope that this event will inspire other students to give a TED Talk just like their classmates and practice their public speaking skills in front of larger audiences. Hopefully an event like TEDx Sun Valley will bring our community together and share ideas that inspire."

TEDx Sun Valley was open to honor society students and their families this year.  Soring hopes to open it up it up to the entire Sun Valley community at a public venue in the future.  She also hope to get more speakers with each year we hold this event.  For more information on Ted Talks to do