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Big ideas presented by youth at TED Talks

Speakers tackle tough issues

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Tackling homelessness, combatting an eating disorder and fighting for a gay-straight alliance -- these were issues several Manitoba youths put forward for discussion at a TED event Wednesday at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People

TED Talks are speaking conferences where presenters share ideas.

Matt Henderson, chairman of TEDxYouth@FortGarry and a teacher at St. John's-Ravenscourt School, helped stage Manitoba's first ever TEDx event for youth.

"I spoke at TEDxManitoba, the adult one, last year, and after I spoke I was sitting in the audience and thinking, 'Man, wouldn't this be cool if kids were doing this?' "

Henderson originally wanted the event to be called TEDxYouth@Manitoba to represent all youth in the province, but TED would not allow it.

"It has to be a specific spot," Henderson said. Eventually the committee decided on Fort Garry because of its historical importance.

"TEDx are independent events where you can apply to have a licence, but everything feeds back into the mother ship."

Speaker Hannah Taylor, 17, presented a project she's been part of since she was eight years old. When Taylor was five, she saw a man eating out of a Dumpster, which sparked the creation of the Ladybug Foundation.

"We now support over 55 shelters, missions and soup kitchens across Canada, and we've worked to raise funds and awareness for those who are homeless," Taylor said backstage.

It sounds like a huge feat for someone who was eight, but Taylor insisted she is just a regular girl who saw a simple truth: "No one should have to eat out of a garbage can, everyone should have a home," she told about 100 students who had applied to attend.

And it is that short and sweet statement that was the driving force behind the Ladybug Foundation. Taylor has spoken at more than 300 events across the world and raised $3.5 million for homelessness since the foundation was created.

But being in high school cuts into her time working with her charity.

"I think my role with Ladybug might have to change because university is so much more demanding," Taylor said. "I'll always care and I'll always help and do what I can."

Evan Wiens, 17, another speaker, started a gay-straight alliance at Steinbach Regional Secondary School.

Wiens attempted to start a GSA last year but was turned down. This year, he changed his tactics and his attitude.

"This year, I didn't take no as an answer," Wiens said.

Wiens is holding the first GSA meeting on Friday.

Henderson would like to see the next youth-oriented TED Talk be completely student-run.

"How do we make it so the MCs are the kids? How do we make it so the media is done by the kids? I think there's a powerful lesson in that," Henderson said.

cindy.chan@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2013 A7

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