[email protected] event provides opportunity for members of community and others to share personal stories

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Nini Panner

Attendees were given the opportunity to write and share poems at the end of the event

Nini Panner, Reporter

CESJDS welcomed speakers from around the world this weekend to speak on resilience and their personal struggles at the [email protected] event with 150 guests virtually attending. The three hour event gave a platform for students and adults alike to share the hardships they have overcome and the lessons they learned. 

Upper School STEM Coordinator Cassandra Batson led the event with the help of the four STEM fellows: juniors Jessica Gallo, Elliot Sher and Nathan Gershengorn and senior Oren Minsk. The event featured 14 speakers from JDS, other local high schools, Minnesota, Colorado, Texas and London. 

Batson first applied to host the event in the summer of 2018, although the world has changed drastically with COVID-19 since then, causing the speakers and teachers to adapt to an online format. Batson chose the topic of resilience before anyone was aware of the uncertain times ahead; though, resilience is even more relevant for the TEDx event than anyone could have imagined. 

“The overarching goal was to give students a platform to have a voice and to make it a community event,” Batson said. “I think we do a lot of wonderful things at JDS for our students, but our students also have a lot to share with others.”

The TED talks ranged from subjects of bionic arms and 3D printing to IRONMAN competitions and Boy Scouts of America. The youngest speaker was in sixth grade and did the majority of the planning, practicing and writing of their TED talk on their own. 

“A lot of it was me just trusting the speakers, and I think they were all phenomenal,” Batson said. “I was so thankful and grateful for all the time and effort they put in.” 

The program was organized into three sessions. The first session had five speakers: aspiring scientist Anika Chebrolu, junior Alexander Rosenberg, junior at St. Paul Academy Isabella Tunney, bionic arm tester and 3-D print expert Daniel Melville and alumnus Alexander Arking (‘18) in the first session.

Junior Adina Schwartz found the virtual format to bring many unexpected and exciting advantages to the event. 

“It’s really cool to get people from London and all across the country to come speak to us that wouldn’t usually be able to,” Schwartz said. “I think having a slideshow or video works really well and transforms and opens up the program to having a lot of new, different things.”

The second session was organized into four breakout rooms of different JDS students: junior Rebecca Safra, sixth grader Aliza Braier, freshman Sean Levitan, and junior Avigayil Fischman-Charry. An advantage of the online format is that guests could move between different virtual rooms to listen to each story and ask questions to the different students. 

Levitan spoke about mental illness and his personal experience overcoming his struggles. The months-long preparation process was all to try and impact the family, friends and guests that attended his talk. 

“I wanted people to come away feeling like they could express ideas and issues they had more easily, not only to give them the confidence to talk about those problems but to know the importance of doing it,” Levitan said. “This might help relieve a lot of stigma around mental illness.”

After a quick break, the third session returned to hear from another five speakers: junior at Montgomery Blair High School Arjun Oberoi, Senior Student Success Manager at 2U, inc. Mario Hernandez, alumna Mia Pearce, head chef and owner of Rose Ave Bakery Rose Nguyen, and eight grader Jessica Rosenberg. Everyone interpreted resilience in their own way from their own experiences. Levitan found this so inspirational because it “didn’t come from anywhere artificial,” but a genuine hope to help peoples community. 

After each individual talk, the audience was able to send in questions to be answered by the speakers. It connected the speaker and audience that is sometimes difficult online. 

To read more about each speaker you can visit the Ted website

The event ended with an opportunity for guests to write and share their own poems led by  Jessica Rosenberg. Guests could anonymously share their poems on a padlet

“Meeting and talking to people with similar issues can feel very freeing and I thought that was interesting. … It was great to listen to all these other people talk about resilience and what that meant to them,” Levitan said. “It was interesting how much of a weight was taken off my back just to talk about the issues I was dealing with.”