Watsonville teens host TEDx event
Santa Cruz County is no stranger to the TED brand. TED—which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design—talks have come to the area through independently organized events 10 times since 2011. This month, the gathering returns to the county with a new twist, thanks to the Watsonville Youth City Council.
[email protected], which will take place Sunday, May 19 at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville, will feature only speakers younger than 19 years old and will traverse topics from racial stereotypes and renewable energy to traditional Mexican dance.
Motivation to organize the event initially came from the council’s most passionate mentor, Lori Butterworth, who is also chief development officer at Ceiba College Preparatory Academy. The 11-member council—which originally convened in 2012, after two years of increased violent crimes involving youth, to give a voice to teens on issues like public safety—nurtured that spark and immediately began brainstorming “ideas worth spreading,” the TED mantra.
“We stayed up until three in the morning on a Thursday coming up with our talk,” says member Fatima Orta. “The next day was important, too. My mom came in my room at 11 and said to go to sleep. I said ‘no, I’m so inspired.’”
Orta’s talk will be a joint presentation with WYCC Mayor Dulce Sixtos called “What Do You Expect From Us?” The duo will focus on challenges Latino women face in the world and how important it is for them to be effective role models for their peers and young children. Orta says the topic was a natural choice for the friends.
“I had just gone to a women’s conference that day,” she says. “The call [to Dulce] started out normal, like ‘What’s up, girl?’ Then the whole conversation about women kept coming back to the point about how we are judged on the color of our skin. No matter where the talk went, it was like a big circle.”
Orta and Sixtos say that their 10-minute presentation aims to break down and confront issues such as the challenges they face in the workplace and assumptions that they will get pregnant at a young age and be housewives. With role models like former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the first Latino Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, the determined young women show no signs of replicating the image they feel people place on them.
Good Times, in fact, had to interject during the conversation with WYCC members in order to get a single word out of the young men present, as the energy from these two girls dominated the discussion.
One of the quiet members at the session, Ulises Cisneros, will not be speaking at the event, either. Rather, he will kick off the event by performing a “cloflorico” dance representing the Mexican state of Jalisco. He says that his family is not from the region, but that he chose it because he likes the style the best of the dances he knows.
“I will be going on first to get the crowd moving,” says Cisneros.
The other young man in the preparation session outside of the Watsonville Planning Commission’s May 7 meeting was 16-year-old artist Andrew Rosario. Careful not to give too much away about his May 19 talk, Rosario says he will demonstrate a way the county can combat graffiti using a “substance” that taggers may find smothering.
“Graffiti and public art should be more about getting positive emotion out of people than claiming territory,” Rosario says.
Few outside the families of the performers will see the talks in person, as the license TED granted Butterworth allows her to sell only 100 tickets. She says that Watsonville Police Chief Manuel Solano and others will be present under various titles, such as security, to make sure that they pack in as many folks as they can. She hopes to bring the event to a wider audience in the future.
“TED is very careful about branding and that is why they have been so successful,” Butterworth explains. “You have to participate in a big global TED event—which I am going to do in the next year—and then you can throw bigger ones.”
Visit tedxyouthwatsonville.org for more information.