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Joanna on stage at TED-Ed in NYC

Joanna Li presents her TED Talk in New York City

“I couldn’t wait to stand inside that famous red circle!” said Joanna Li, bubbling with excitement about her recent trip to the TED-Ed Headquarters in New York City, where many TED Talks are filmed.

The Year 10 student’s twenty-two hour journey to the USA began months ago, when a speech she produced as part of Meriden’s TED-Ed Club caught the eye of content curators at TED Headquarters. Joanna’s impassioned presentation about speciesism was selected as one of just a handful of ideas worth spreading that would be presented at a TED-Ed Weekend for young people.

Before the trip, Joanna and the other presenters spent time video conferencing with TED staff, including Ashley Kolaya, Bobby Nweke, Marisa Aubin, Neveen Mourad and Sazia Afrin. Joanna said she was glad for the opportunity to fine-tune her presentation with such accomplished and experienced speakers and felt comfortable because she got to practice her speech on the TED stage prior to the arrival of the live audience and video cameras.

“The space in which we presented our talks wasn’t very big,” she said. “But having cameras pointed at you, along with a stage crew whispering instructions into walkie-talkies was certainly an experience!”

At the event, students from more than twenty different countries attended to hear from inspiring speakers their own age, who each spoke in one of three categories: “Self-Reflectors”, “Awareness-Raisers” and “Perspective Shifters”. Joanna’s speech, in the latter category, was entitled “Save the Blob!” and urged audiences to re-think the way we prioritise the conservation of animals according to their “cute-factor”. She suggested society try harder to cultivate empathy towards all living things, even strange-looking species like the blobfish or the much-maligned ibis.

Joanna said one of the highlights of her trip was meeting young people from all over the world who were determined to use their voices for change in their communities.

“It was so motivating to see my new friends present their speeches and connect with the audience,” she said.

“Ananya Grover spoke about the stigma of menstruation and how she took action to break the taboo; Canda Atalay reflected on how she started her own space program in Turkey and Ethan Lisi talked about what it is like to have autism. Everyone had an idea worth spreading, an idea with the potential to change the way our audiences see the world.”

“Stepping inside the red circle was nerve-wracking but it was unforgettable,” Joanna said. “I am forever grateful to Meriden for offering TED-Ed Club as a cocurricular activity and to Mrs Curran and Mrs Owen for their expertise and encouragement. I am also grateful to TED-Ed for reaching out to me and inviting me to speak at the conference. The whole journey was a phenomenal experience.”

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