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Laguna Students Dive Into the Unknown at Second TEDx Event

Laguna students produced another hugely successful and sold-out TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool event on Tuesday, January 29. Based on the theme UNCHARTED, the event featured 20 speakers and performers from all around the world who explored the theme by pushing boundaries and sparking deep discussions about space, literature, disease, culture, entrepreneurship, artificial intelligence, and music.

“This year, we wanted to go into new territory and we felt the theme UNCHARTED was the best way to do that,” explains Rhami Zeini ’20, head of the Business Development team for the TEDx Project-Based Leadership class. Some of the speaker highlights included Alison Teal, named the “Female Indiana Jones” by Time Magazine; Jen Bricker, an experienced acrobat and aerialist born without legs, and Charlie Plumb, a former navy pilot captain and ex-POW for six years during the Vietnam War.

With over 650 in attendance, the event took place on the school’s Hope Ranch campus in the Merovick Gymnasium, which was transformed into a theatre—fully designed by students in the TEDx class—reflecting uncharted territory from the deep sea to outer space. Emcees Andrew Tolles '19 and Kyle Aitcheson '19 also took inspiration from the theme as they entertained the audience between speakers in scuba gear and space suits.

What makes TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool different from other TEDx events is that the entire production is planned and run by students. At Laguna Blanca, students in Grades 9-12 can take TEDx as a class, which allows them to develop organizational leadership skills while working in a collaborative team environment to create and produce the school's annual TEDx event. Based on skills and interests, the group divides into six sub-teams—Executive Production, Design, Curation, Operations, Publicity, and Business Development—each of which is charged with specific tasks. With support from faculty guides Anna Alldredge and Allison Armstrong and led by Executive Producers Kiki Tolles '20 and Emma Raith '20, these teams accomplish everything from designing the stage set to creating and managing a complex budget and organizing professional-quality audio and visual coverage. The resulting talks are then shared around the world.

Humanities Teacher Anna Alldredge co-leads the class and says, “Essentially, the students in this 16-week elective class are running their own non-profit organization, top to bottom. And, the final product is this meaningful daylong TEDx event—a gift to the Laguna Blanca and Santa Barbara communities.”

In addition to the three sessions of inspiring talks, the TEDx team created interactive galleries outside the gymnasium for event attendees to further explore the event’s theme during breaks. One gallery allowed guests to quite literally plant the seeds (succulent seedlings) of their own ideas on a living wall while another encouraged guests to look inside themselves about things in life that make them frustrated, happy, sad, and peaceful. Adding to the hands-on learning experiences were booths sponsored by local community organizations like the SB Maritime Museum, the SB Museum of Natural History, Musicology, the SB Audubon Society, and the SB Zoo, who even offered bug snacks for students to try.

Truly a community-wide effort, the following organizations, families, and businesses partnered with TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool to make the event possible: Connor Capital, Santa Barbara Foundation, Mosher Foundation, Montecito Bank & Trust, O’Connor Family, Bollag Family, Santa Barbara Design Center, Wyatt Technology, Viva Taco Bar, Movegreen, Domino’s, Martha Tolles, Farrell Family, Maps.com, Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water, Spark Creative Events, Bright Event Rentals, Anderson Family, Kopu Pure Sparkling Water, Scheinberg Orthopedic Group, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Tolles Family, Fowler Family, Fuladi Family, Ms. Ellen Robinson, Musicology, Zeini Family, Raith Family, King Family, Morouse Family, Adams Printing & Graphics, Santa Barbara Audubon Society Eyes in the Sky, the YMCA, UC Santa Barbara, Schiebler Family, and Amazebooth.

Click here for more information about the program or to meet the speakers.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED created TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The school’s event is called TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including Laguna Blanca’s, are self-organized.
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