From Burnt Out to Fired Up at TEDxYouth@Toronto

As students, most of us are used to learning in an enclosed environment — in a school where a seemingly infinite amount of assignments, tests, and exams drive you crazy to the point of burnout, leading you to want to spend all of your time relaxing.

But on Saturday, November 20 — TEDxYouthDay — approximately 120 young people came together at the Ontario Science Centre for a life-changing event that made us thirsty for knowledge: TEDxYouth@Toronto. The youth who attended this event truly wanted to learn and be motivated. They wanted to hear about innovations and start taking action around their own creative ideas. I am proud to say that I was one of these young people who got to experience such a powerful movement: a day filled with encouragement, inspiration, and hope.

This year’s theme was “The Power of One,” and featured talks and performances by many amazing people who are working to make a difference in the world.

The day began with an introduction from emcee Corey Atkinson. He suggested that we make note of ideas that came up throughout the day, and we did just that. I now have a notebook filled with hopes, dreams, and quotes that I experienced during the event. The inspiring speakers, from Ziya Tong to Marshal Zhang, were available during the breaks and we got to speak with them personally, which was fantastic. They were all very open and friendly, which made the event all the more enjoyable.

Before the event, I imagined the day as one filled with only listening, which was perfectly fine with me. However, the day stretched far beyond my expectations. Throughout TEDxYouth@Toronto, we talked in mixed groups of different people and took part in group activities. I had the chance to meet other young people who I would have never met if it weren’t for this event.

I still remember the feeling I got when I entered the auditorium where the speakers and performers gave their presentations. I was excited, but I was also nervous. I didn’t know anyone in the room, but I intended to have met many people by the time I left the event. I began speaking to the people around me and realized that youth from all over Ontario traveled from various distances for this event! It made me realize how determined we all were to be inspired and to come together around “The Power of One.”

The talk that stuck with me the most was from Haroon Mirza. He told us a story that he had once heard in which a mother was teaching a lesson to her child. First, she boiled three pots of water. In the first pot, the mother added a carrot. In the second, an egg, and in the third, coffee beans. Haroon ended the story by saying, “All faced the same adversity, but look at the outcome: the carrots went from being strong to weak, the egg with the soft heart hardened, and the coffee beans changed the water.”

After hearing this, I truly felt that I was meant to be at TEDxYouth@Toronto 2011 to help change the water of this earth — to make this world a better place. As a twelfth-grade student, it saddens me that this was both my first and last chance to experience such a powerful event. But maybe it’s not! Maybe one day I’ll be giving a TEDxTalk!

Written by Suzanne Joanes, an official TEDxYouth@Toronto reporter.

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