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FairfaxEducationMadeira students to spotlight experiences during TED Talk

Madeira students to spotlight experiences during TED Talk

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Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Talks for 37 years have expounded ideas and prompted spirited dialogues. The Madeira School in McLean on Sept. 26 will hold an event, “Defying Odds,” featuring speeches by 12 students on topics ranging from digital technology to mental health.

Public speaking lets people use their voices to effect change, said rising senior Moniola Odunsi, who founded TEDxYouth@MadeiraSchool and originated the idea for the event.

“I think that empowering people’s voices, especially as a woman of color, is something I’m really passionate about,” she said.

The event will be held on Madeira’s campus, but only 100 people will be allowed to attend in person, per the TED license. The speeches also will be live-streamed, said Odunsi, who will turn 17 this November.

Odunsi began working on the event back in January, and during the spring solicited applications from potential student speakers. She narrowed down the list to 12 who represented a diverse range of races, religions and topics.

She has encouraged the speakers to talk for 10 to 12 minutes each – long enough to address their themes concisely and engage the audience, but not to stray off topic or struggle to fill dead time.

In accordance with TED guidelines, speakers should steer clear from politics, religion and other controversial issues, Odunsi said.

“They’re allowed to use visual aids and speak about a variety of topics, really anything that allows them to get their story and message across,” she said.

While finding public speaking “really empowering and exhilarating once you’re in the moment,” Odunsi still is debating whether to give a speech herself at the event, given her other responsibilities.

Bringing together the program has taught her the need to start early on major tasks, juggle multiple priorities and manage her time efficiently, she said.

Speakers (and their topics) include Abby Chen (fear of failure), Ashley Zheng (stigma of introversion), Chi Hoang (using digital technology to connect people), Lindsay Li (future of technology), Jasmine Brothers (cultural identity and understanding), Kyleigh Woodrick (empathy and mental health), Maya Shanbhag (bi-cultural identity and creating stories), Mimi Im (mental health and adversity), Nyla Choudry (significance of the Muslim hijab), Sarah King (Tik Tok app’s sharing of users’ data), Sophia Fox (memory loss) and Taylor Miller (defying the odds).

Shanbhag said her speech will be about my experiences growing up in America with both Indian and American identities.

“I’m participating in this program because I hope my speech will reach others who may be struggling with navigating between their heritage culture and American culture,” she told the Sun Gazette. “I hope those who resonate with this struggle will realize they’re not alone in it and will feel more open to talking about it.”

Angela Pubal, Madeira’s assistant dean of student life and culture, is the program’s adult liaison. She has acted as Moniola’s mentor to help guide the event and give feedback, but the event otherwise has been developed solely by the student team, she said.

Through Moniola, Pubal has exhorted the speakers is to be as transparent and honest as possible.

“The reason TED talks are so popular and well-received is because of the innate vulnerability that a speaker brings – their personal and lived experiences,” she said.

Pubal said she hopes Madeira will continue the event annually.

“It will bring our community even closer together as we continue to share our stories in a powerful and meaningful way,” she said. “We have such an amazing and diverse community here and I cannot wait to hear about our students’ perceived triumphs and failures that ultimately lead to beautiful moments of growth.”

The daughter of Nigerian parents, Odunsi is a day student from Boyds, Md. She came to Madeira after attending middle school at Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda. Odunsi said she likes Madeira School’s academic rigor and community feel.

She is excited and motivated by entrepreneurship and has participated in competitions on that topic. Odunsi began watching the business-themed television show “Shark Tank” with her father when she was 6 and later ran lemonade stands and held cookie sales.

During the pandemic, Odunsi focused on world issues.

“I had to mature a lot during the COVID-19 period. I think we all did,” she said. “But I’m really grateful for it because I think it allowed me to see things in a new light and really just propelled me toward what I hope to do in the future.”

She eventually hopes to be her own boss and start a company that benefits people.

“I know that I’m really passionate about education and equality, using technology to solve different issues,” she said.

For more information on the event, visit www.tedxyouthmadeiraschool.com.

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