After four years, TEDxYouth@MSJHS kicked off their first virtual year with a bang as 67 people attended their speaker conference. Held on March 20 from 3-4:30 p.m., the event featured three guest speakers with wide-ranging backgrounds of microbiology, entertainment, and political advocacy.
Founder and President of Radiance Biosciences & Consultancy and Radiance Diagnostics, an in vitro fertilization and COVID-19 testing company, Dr. Sivakumar Ramu was the first to speak. Having recently partnered with Albert Uster Imports to provide COVID-19 testing, support, and laboratory administration for the government and businesses that require research and development assistance, Ramu was able to use his scientific background to become a successful entrepreneur.
Having used his connections to help him build and expand his business from the ground up, Ramu stressed the importance of networking. However, he noted that in forming connections, sincerity should always prevail rather than for the sake of profiting in the future. “Value each and everyone that you meet on your way and around you,” he said. “Be courteous, and build new relationships. Tomorrow, whatever you need is always there, so go with hope and confidence.”
Keeping with the central theme of journeys, MSJ Alumna Class of 2016 Playback Singer and Actress Pragathi Guruprasad discussed her personal experience with music and her childhood love for the art. She discussed the leap of faith she took in taking a year off high school to attend a singing reality show, Airtel Super Singer Junior, in 2012, catapulting her music career. “The very thought of ‘what if everything worked out?’ pushed me to make those decisions. I never wanted to look back and say ‘I wish I did that,’” Guruprasad said.
Recalling her experience when applying to college, Guruprsad emphasized that one definition of success does not apply to everyone. “In many people’s eyes, I had so much success to my name from [Super Singer Junior] and releasing my own music. But, every college counselor looked at my numbers and said that the colleges that I wanted to go to were completely out of reach,” she said. However, Guruprsad still applied and was accepted to her dream school, UC Los Angeles (UCLA). After performing for her world tour and attending UCLA for political science and music, she made her acting debut on the Netflix comedy-drama Never Have I Ever.
The third and final speaker, GENup Co-founder and Executive Director Senior Alvin Lee, closed out the event with an outline of his journey in education advocacy. Since its founding in 2017, GENup has grown to be CA’s largest youth-led education advocacy organization, engaging over 4,000 student activists from 85 K-12 public school districts. Through GENup, Lee said that he learned about the importance of education and speaking up on it in addressing systemic inequality. He encouraged those who want to follow in the same path to create and execute an action plan and continuously engage with their community. “Any student can become an advocate in their district and in their community. All it takes is that bold step of getting out of your comfort zone,” he said.
Founded in 2011, TEDxYouth@MSJHS hoped to spark deep discussion and connection within the MSJ body. However, in the last four years, TEDxYouth@MSJHS’s plans for their annual speaker conferences always fell through since the members had prior individual commitments. This year, President Senior Mahek Bhora, who had joined her freshman year, wanted to see some results in her last year at MSJ and was motivated to restart the organization.
TEDxYouth@MSJHS started planning this event in August 2020 as they began brainstorming potential event themes and speakers. The organizing team decided on the theme of Odyssey, hoping to highlight the journeys and beginnings of their speakers, who come from vastly different fields. “In hearing the journeys of other people, rather than just hearing their successes, we hope our audience was able to take away that anyone is capable of anything,” Bhora said.
Despite the initial challenges that came with hosting an event online, from coordinating team meetings online to struggling to find speakers willing to attend, TEDxYouth@MSJHS was pleased with how smoothly the panel went, though there were some areas they hoped to have improved in. “If I’m being honest, I would have liked to see more people attend, because it’s the first TEDx event for MSJ in four years … but every individual person still counts for something,” Vice President Senior Andrew Gao said.
While TEDxYouth@MSJ doesn’t have any plans for the immediate future, they are looking forward to continuing events like this one in years to come. “Hopefully next year we will get to have an [in-person] event, and be able to do this and continue it even past next year with our new officers.” Tech Head Junior Anvi Kalucha said.
Cover image by News Editor Alina Zeng