DVHS TEDx spotlights student opinions

Indra Deshmukh, Copy Editor

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  • “You are so much more than a mirror.” Sophomore Rittrija Mandal explains why one’s personality and ideas should be valued over their physical appearance.

  • “It took me aback when I realized that this field has so much opportunity, but we may be using technology in the wrong ways.” Junior Kirti Subramanian weighs in on the importance of responsible innovation.

    Emily Han
  • “If you don’t fit one story, that doesn’t erase your identity.” Varun Nirval explores the phenomenon of dissonant acculturation in immigrant families.

    Emily Han
  • “There’s no right way to live the immigrant lifestyle.” Varun Nirval’s illustrations highlight the difficulties in bridging cultural and generational divides.

    Varun Nirval
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Dougherty Valley students captivated their audience with a series of eight talks on the theme of identity and purpose at the annual TEDx event on March 13.

A TEDx event features several 15-minute speeches surrounding a central concept, each aiming to spread a unique “idea worth sharing.”  Dougherty’s TEDx club has been running this well-established program for years, influenced by larger-scale conferences at universities like UC Berkeley. 

The club sends out applications for speakers at the start of each school year, selecting the eight most impactful ideas. This year’s speeches featured a notable emphasis on stress and mental health, a topic that many Dougherty students struggle with.

Senior and TEDx secretary Emily Han opened with a reflection on her insecurities as an immigrant student whose understanding of language and culture is different from other people’s. 

“I thought this was going to be a very nerve-wracking experience, but the moment I got onto stage, it [became] a platform to say something that you want the world to hear,” Han said.

Along with preparing her own speech, Han coached other speakers leading up to the event in March.

“It was really engaging to work with all the speakers, because as I was drafting my own speech, I also took inspiration from the people around me,” Han explained. “Having long-term preparation really allows me to write multiple drafts of my talks and to deliver the version of my story that will be the most helpful for people.”

One student who worked with Han was junior Kirti Subramanian, who spoke about responsible innovation in technology, something she believes is crucial to consider for our future. Although this was Subramanian’s first year with TEDx, she felt supported by the club and said it helped her find her voice.

“I started off with no experience, but [I understood that] I care a lot about this topic and I want others to care about it too,” Subramanian said. “I wanted to inspire my classmates so that as future innovators, we can take these factors into consideration and make a better future.”

Other speakers hoped to inspire their classmates as well, especially when handling mental health struggles. Juniors Siddharth Germilla spoke about imposter syndrome, Ashna Saluja about the connection between mental and physical well-being and Arya Singh about reforming our grading system to better support a growth mindset.

“The speakers have worked really hard,” TEDx president Nandhini Manchikalapudi said. “It’s not easy going up on a stage and giving a 15-minute talk by yourself, but [having] determination and passion and consistency gets you far.”

Meanwhile, some students brought awareness to social issues that had impacted them personally. Junior Varun Nirval highlighted how different rates of cultural assimilation separate generations, while sophomore Rittrija Mandal talked about surpassing the need to adhere to beauty standards.

“The speakers have worked really hard,” TEDx president Nandhini Manchikalapudi said. “It’s not easy going up on a stage and giving a 15-minute talk by yourself, but [having] determination and passion and consistency gets you far.”

The speakers themselves were grateful not only for the chance to dive into ideas they wanted to share with the world, but also to get comfortable with public speaking.

“One piece of advice I would give to a future speaker is not to be afraid,” said sophomore Sneha Shah, who fittingly spoke about overcoming subconscious limitations and fears. “I know it can be intimidating to be on stage and present a speech, but it’s really worth it, and I enjoyed getting to know the other speakers too.”

The club members highly recommended that more students get involved with TEDx in the next school year. Along with this event, the club also runs smaller “student talks”, building a community of driven change-makers.

“I encourage [everyone] to consider joining TEDx because it’s a really great platform,” Han said. “There’s a lot of supportive people who help you through this journey, and it’s very, very meaningful to be able to speak of your experience and your perspective in front of an audience who wants to listen to your story and learn from them.”