Collegiate Seniors Prepare for 4th Annual TEDxYouth@RVA Event

The fourth annual TEDxYouth@RVA will kick off next week on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Collegiate School’s Hershey Center for the Arts. The general public is invited to hear a wide range of local speakers reflect on the theme Monumental.
Since last May, a group of Collegiate students, as part of their Senior Capstone class TEDxYouth@RVA, and students from 10 other area schools — Thomas Jefferson High School, Henrico High School, John Randolph Tucker High School, Open High School, Varina High School, Meadowbrook High School, James River High School, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Huguenot High School and Richmond Community High School — have planned this year’s free event, which will be held from 5-9 p.m.
Three members of the Capstone class, Duncan Owen, Hannah Feder and Lee Kennon, share their thoughts on this year’s event, what went into the planning and what attendees can expect from the evening.

“Last May, we were assigned our Senior Capstone classes. We wrote preferences about which Capstones we wanted to do. For me, this was my top choice because I love event planning. We’ve been working over the summer on nominating speakers.”

“Back in September, we took a strength test and we learned what our strengths are, and based our roles within the class on those strengths. For example, people who have responsibility as their strength were put in charge of big roles like finances and fundraising and budget managing. The whole class still works together as a team, but we’ve broken off in the past couple weeks to achieve our own tasks and to get stuff done. We are responsible for the event.”

“The amount of confidence that the teachers entrust in the students has definitely been a new thing that I’ve had to learn and adapt to. For example, we’re in charge of sending emails to various businesses and [event participants] and we’re left on our own to do it. And at first I was a little bit nervous, so I’ve had to learn to be more confident in my work.”

“We’ve been anticipating this since May. We’ve been working very hard and we’re just excited for it all to come together on one night. We have such a diverse array of speakers. These are real people and we’ve enjoyed working with them and cultivating a very Richmond experience that represents the greater Richmond area, because it’s TEDxYouth@RVA.”

“I knew I wanted to do something with other people and not just work with everyone in my class. So as the media liaison I created our press release to send out to newspapers. I’m in charge of emailing different groups of people at organizations that [work with youths] who we think would want to come to TEDx. I’m in charge of getting ticket sales out to make sure everyone knows, not only in the Collegiate community, but outside of Collegiate about TEDx.”

“Everyone in our class has one or two speakers he or she is in charge of and making sure they are doing things on time. It’s hard because if we don’t get something in by a deadline, there are consequences. It’s a challenge having to put ourselves in the adult role. We still have Mrs. [Rhiannon] Boyd and Mrs. [Erica] Coffey [the Capstone faculty members] keeping us on track, but we’re also in charge of keeping people who may be 10-20 years older than us on track. I think I’m more confident now in talking to people who I don’t normally talk to and being the authority figure and taking charge.”

“I’m excited about the day of the event, just seeing everything our whole class has worked so hard on come together and actually happen. We’ve just spent so much time planning. I’m just really excited to see everyone come. It’s a rare event where there are so many different viewpoints and ideas that are all being shared at once. And I think that’s really interesting to learn more about the city that we live in.”

“This year, we had to decide on a theme. We all came up with a theme and put them all up in class and did design thinking and talked about what we thought worked and what didn’t and narrowed it down. The theme Monumental is a sort of a play on words with everything that’s happening in Richmond and around the world right now, but it also means big and huge…. We all talked about it and it worked.”

“Through TEDxYouth@RVA I’ve learned a lot about responsibility and relying on other people. I’m forced to rely on other people because I can’t control every little thing and other people are forced to rely on me. It’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of different steps, spreadsheets and everything to keep together. It’s crazy the amount we’ve had to do in such little time. It’s such a big event. We expect roughly 500 people.”

“The talks range from three minutes to 12 minutes. The day of the event I am in charge of the speakers. I’ll be making sure they are where they are supposed to be and that they have whatever they need.”

“People should come to TEDxYouth@RVA because there is such a range of different talks and topics and ideas that are all important. There are things you wouldn’t think about unless you heard a speaker talking about it. And they are all very empowering and inspiring, so it’s going to be neat.”

Several of the individuals the students researched and invited to speak include:
  • Mona Elrayah, who was born and raised in Sudan and hopes to focus on education in developing countries
  • Tom Bannard, an advocate for people in recovery or who are struggling with substance use disorder
  • Zack Hodges, who works at Peak Experiences and shares others’ stories who have found their purpose
  • Unicia Buster, illustrator of two adult coloring books that the beauty of natural hair
  • Me’Kel Williams and Marquis David, founders of hip hop group Elev8 and members of Richmond Urban Dance
  • Future Prospect, the newest addition to the Richmond music scene who perform original songs
  • Alex Peavey, school counselor at Collegiate School and a well-regarded mindfulness teacher in the local community, who uses mindfulness to choose joy despite being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer

Attendance to TEDxYouth@RVA is free, but registration is required at

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