TEDxYouth@Tokyo: Organized by Kids!

Getting involved in TEDxYouth@Tokyo was a snap decision that I made after a classmate, who had heard about the event and was excited to take part in it, told me that the first TEDxYouth@Tokyo design team meeting would be held after school that day. So we got on the train straight after school and, with the guidance of a map I pulled up on my cellphone, went to the meeting. My impulse to get involved stemmed out of my love for TEDTalks and their inspiring ideas, but no amount of previous respect and admiration for TED could have prepared me for what I learned and how I grew from the experience of helping organize and report at this fully youth-organized TEDxYouthDay event. 

When I got to the meeting venue, I was nervous and did not know what to expect. I had many questions running through my head, such as “How many people will be there?” and “How will the meetings be conducted?” Sitting around the room were approximately 20 students, who were more or less my age, from different schools. And then there were two adults who explained that we, the kids, would be putting this event together. They told us the basics of what we would need to consider, such as advertising, attracting speakers and performers, setting up the venue, ensuring that everything from the sound system to spotlights worked the way we wanted them to, livestreaming, and reporting the event online. The event was scheduled to happen in just over a month. To me, it seemed that pulling all of this off was challenging at best.

The weeks between that first meeting and the day that TEDxYouth@Tokyo finally occurred were filled with tremendous and very positive learning experiences. I worked with the design team at those weekly meetings, and as I learned more about the young people behind the initially unfamiliar faces, I found that we had a lot in common beyond our mutual interest in TED.

When we began to designate specific roles to the members of our team, I decided that being an official TEDxYouth@Tokyo reporter appealed to me most, along with a group of other students who also wanted to be reporters. Once we took on these roles, we became active on social media platforms to attract as many people interested in attending or speaking at our event as possible. We spread the word, tweeting and Facebook-updating enthusiastically. Before we knew it, the spaces for speakers and performers had filled up! 

And what a range of speakers we had! The topics of talks touched on many important ideas on the indigenous, including the state of the Japanese Ainu people, self-esteem, bullying, morality, team building, why change is good, NGOs helping children in need, a rap and talk from a Burmese refugee in Tokyo, talks about nuclear energy, sustainability, learning English through fun and games, train crossings, a performance dedicated to suicide prevention and a finale of Celtic music. All of the presenters did a fantastic job relating to TEDxYouth@Tokyo’s overall theme of “Play, Learn, Build & Share.”

On the day of the event, my fellow official TEDxYouth@Tokyo reporters and I sat alertly in front of the stage with laptops and smartphones, constantly tweeting and updating our Facebook pages from our personal accounts as well as the TEDxYouth@Tokyo accounts. We took many photos of the speakers and performers and posted online throughout the event. When I wasn’t live reporting, I occasionally played the role of the MC on stage for some of the talks and performances. During the breaks, we got to interview many of our speakers and performers to learn more about them. 

TEDxYouth@Tokyo left me feeling empowered. I got to see young people — some of whom are my classmates at school — share their passions, talents and perspectives on sophisticated and relevant current issues with great maturity and poise. I am so glad I got involved in TEDxYouthDay this past year, and I am looking forward to participating in an even bigger and better TEDxYouth@Tokyo next year!

Written by Monica Brova, an official TEDxYouth@Tokyo reporter.

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