"Invest In Yourself" & 11 More Lessons From TEDxTeen 2015

On Saturday, May 16, young people came together to share "ideas worth spreading" at the TEDxTeen conference.

Jamie Primeau

Over the weekend, a few of the Choices editors returned to our office at Scholastic. Nope, we weren't here to get a head start on our September issue. Instead, we attended TEDxTeen—an independently organized TED event, where speakers come together to share ideas worth spreading. This year's theme? #SimplyIrresistible. In other words, all it takes is one simple, undeniable idea to create a big change.

During the course of the day, more than a dozen young people took the stage in the Scholastic Auditorium. There were musical performances, dance numbers, and inspiring speeches. While we wish we could recap it all, here are a few highlights of empowering lessons to apply to your own life—and to share with any teens you know!

This jar contains the trash Lauren Singer created in two years.

Consider Your Impact On The Planet

Passionate about the environment, Lauren Singer decided to live a "zero waste" lifestyle. This meant not creating any garbage. She makes her own products (deodorant, shampoo, tooth paste, etc.) and buys fresh food that she can put in containers she already has (instead of wasting plastic). Some parting words from Lauren? "I want to be remembered for the things I did on this planet, not the trash I left behind."

Life May Be Hard, But You Can Do Something About It

David Mace wants our generation to be the first to solve war. Sure, it sounds like a big goal, but he's using math to try and make it happen. The overarching theme of his speech? Life can have its hard moments, but don't stop trying. No problem is too big to tackle as long as you have the drive to do so. 

Combine Your Senses, Instead of Isolating Them

"What would a Maya Angelou poem look like? What would it feel like?" These are the questions Allison Wood posed to the audience. She's the co-creator and CEO of REIFY, a software company that transforms sound into a 3D object that people can see and hold. She believes in combining the senses, instead of isolating them. She's completely trying to change the experience of listening to music.

Make Your Mind Dance

Science and dance may seem like two entirely different fields, but for Eesha Khare, they're part of one whole. She's passionate about both and it's the creativity she experiences through dance that fuels her work in the lab. Her advice? "Find your move and be tempted." In other words, discover what makes your mind "dance" and go do that.

If Your Dreams Scare You, That's A Good Thing

Ben Nemtin is part of a group called The Buried Life—they even had their own show on MTV. The group asks people one question: "What do you want to do before you die?" Not only are they crossing items of their own bucket lists, but they're helping other people across the country do the same. How can you make these dreams a reality? Nemtin says, "Write down your ideas. It's the first step toward making them real."

Your Words Matter More Than Emojis Ever Will

As the Senior Editor of Young Voices at Huffington Post, Taylor Trudon knows a thing or two about teens' stories. During her speech, she talked about the power of words and never underestimating their importance. She said, "Your words don't have to directly change the world in order to change someone else's." Another valuable lesson? "It's important to remember we each have our own story and something to say."

Alessia Cara, 18, performed an inspiring song about beauty standards.Inspiration Is All Around Us

High school student Mihir Garimella was inspired by fruit flies. After seeing how the insects behave, he used that knowledge to create flying robots! These can be used as drones for search and rescue responses in emergency situations. His main message: "Look around and see how things work. You'll find inspiration in the most overlooked of places."

Invest In Yourself

Rachel Fox is an 18-year-old actress, singer, and a financial trader. Through her speech, she proved that you're never too young to go after what you want—all it takes is time and effort. Despite what others may say, you don't have to be pigeon-holed into one category. You can do it all! She said, "Haters, fear, and boredom are your number-one enemies. Don't let them stop you from investing in yourself."

Find Something You Love Doing & Go After It

Have you ever heard of hackathons? They're like "gyms for the mind," according to Dave Fontenot. He helps spread hackathons all around the country. They're day-long events where passionate, tech-savvy individuals come together to create apps. It doesn't matter if you're not into hacking—you can still follow Dave's MO: "Find something you're obsessed with, invite your friends, and create something awesome."

Spread Positivity, Not Negativity

Growing up, Cailtin Haacke dealt with bullying. It began with kids on the playground and grew way harsher in middle school. Instead of letting it get her down, she decided to do something about it. She took Post-It notes and wrote positive messages, which ultimately became Positive Post-It Day—a nationally celebrated day in Canada where students take a stand against bullying and spread positivity. At only 16, she knew the importance of combating hate with kindness. "You should face your fears head on and go running toward them," she told the crowd.

Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Words

A visual recap of session 3 of TEDxTeen.Xavier DiPetta may have not paid a ton of attention in history class, but he realized that the images shown in his textbooks were incredibly impactful. He helped start a digital media company that shares news and history through the power of images. Instead of only learning in school, educational opportunities are endless. As xavier said, "The classroom has no doors. Everything around you has meaning."

Art Is A Powerful Tool Of Expression

Nineteen-year-old activist Rebecca Dharmapalan believes in the power of using art to create change. She also understands the importance of helping in our own backyards. When she learned that sex trafficking was happening here in the U.S., she decided to shed a light on the subject through a documentary. She wants to spread awareness and says, "I knew that art was the way for me to connect to the world."

For more stories of amazing young people, be sure to check out the Choices  "Inspired Like You" and "Different Like You" series! A few great examples? "Gerron Is Speaking Up To End Violence" and "Eric Is Getting Healthy."