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TEDxYouth@MHS 2019
TEDxYouth@MHS 2019

Students at Minnetonka High School (MHS) had the unique opportunity to attend the second annual TEDxYouth@MinnetonkaHS event on Saturday, September 21. Senior Jai Chadha has planned and organized the event both years.

The theme for this year's event was Towards a Technological World. "In contemporary society," said Chadha, "careers are becoming increasingly technical." Realizing that most high school students are approaching a time in their lives when they will enter the workforce, Chadha saw that he needed speakers who would "inspire students and spark innovation."

Speakers included:

  • Dan McCreary, Distinguished Engineer at Optum
  • Gabrielle Tan, Student at Minnetonka High School
  • Joseph Cossette, Physics and Physical Science teacher at Minnetonka High School
  • Laurie Stach, Founder and Executive Director of the LaunchX entrepreneurship programs
  • René Rodriguz; Speaker, Leadership Advisor, and CEO of Volentum
  • Tyler Olson, Serial Entrepreneur

Each speaker spoke about their different experiences with technology.

One of this year's speakers was Gabrielle Tan, a senior at Minnetonka High School. "I chose to speak at TEDx because I felt that it was a really valuable opportunity for me to share my story on how I taught myself guitar and became more comfortable as a musician," said Tan.

Music has played an important role in Tan's life and technology has greatly affected how she has been able to learn and perform.

"Music is something that has only ever made me happy, and I dedicate immense time and energy to it because I love it," said Tan. "There are countless valuable resources online for music, ranging from teaching lessons to finding sheet music to discovering new styles," said Tan. "I find myself using technology daily in a musical context."

Speaking at the TEDx event, Tan made her message clear. "I wanted to both help others dare to try new things but also prove to myself that there was value in working hard all these years," she said. Tan's TEDx talk also included a small performance where she sang two songs that are especially meaningful to her.

Another speaker at TEDx was René Rodriguez, a speaker, CEO of Volentum, and leadership advisor. For over twenty years, Rodriguez has researched and applied behavioral neuroscience to solve challenging problems in leadership, sales and change.

"We all have ideas," said Rodriguez, "We all share the same desire to want those ideas to be heard but so few of us were ever taught how to actually make that happen. I have studied why people resist ideas and innovation, and the role our brain plays in it. As a result, I came up with a simple sequence to make it easier for ideas to not only be heard, but acted upon. That is influence."

Rodriguez believes that TEDx is an important opportunity for high schoolers in today's age. "TEDx is the ultimate test of truth for ideas. It forces you to think differently and honestly about your message," he said. "There is nothing more powerful than a student driven by a vision of possibility and curiosity. Education is one thing, but having access to innovation and fresh ideas, that is what inspires greatness. TEDx provides that opportunity."

"I believe that TEDxYouth@MinnetonkaHS is important both for myself and for the school/community because it allows us to have the difficult conversations that matter and to spark innovation and exploration," said Chadha. "Beyond that, it forces our community to think in new ways and it encourages a level platform among students and adults, exposing our community to new ideas. In doing so, we adapt our thinking, enhance our knowledge, and broaden our horizons."

Chadha began planning his first TEDx event following a Principal Advisory Council meeting at the end of his sophomore year. At that meeting, Minnetonka High School principal, Jeff Erickson, asked a question that stayed with Chadha long after the meeting. He asked what their lasting legacy at Minnetonka and in the broader community would be.

"I began thinking what I wanted my legacy to be," said Chadha, "and I found that in starting a TEDx event in Minnetonka."

Reflecting on the two years he has organized TEDx, Chadha notes that, "seeing the smiling faces of the audience members during the event--and the impact the speakers have on the audience members and the community in general--makes everything, all the hardships and fun, worth it."

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