TEDx brings panel of students, experts together

TedxKentState speaker Jessic Koltik does a quick demonstration of traditional medittion during her talk on mindfulness meditation Friday morning, Feb 23, 2018. This year’s TedxKentState theme was Pale Blue Dot.

Madeline Scalzi

Session One

For the second year in a row, Saturday morning TEDxKentState kicked off with excitement and intrigue as guests of all ages filled the Kiva to learn about a “Pale Blue Dot.”

Cason Brunt, the director of Student Support Services and Academic Diversity Outreach, entered the stage and spoke first about personal hardships. Evan Delahanty, the founder and CEO of Peaceful Fruits, followed Brunt’s presentation.

Delahanty spoke about capitalism and focused the majority of his speech on climate change’s place in today’s business model.

“Social enterprise is the idea that an organization can maximize for community well-being and profit at the same time,” Delahanty said. “You’ve got to make money, but if you don’t take care of your community while you’re doing that, you are gonna run out of nice places to spend that money sooner or later.”

The final speeches of the first session were by Nikki Costa, a high school English teacher at Shaker Heights, and Brazilian journalism student Bruno Beidacki.

Costa spoke about “loving your tribe,” with a focus on helping young women understand the phrase.

“We often get really hung up on who we want to join our community — who we need to join our community — but what we often don’t pay attention to is ‘if you build it they will come,’ and we don’t get to choose who shows up to that,” Costa said. “Honor who shows up by choosing to show up to lead for them.”

Beidacki, who is also the opinion editor for The Kent Stater, worked as a Pulitzer Center crisis reporting fellow in Macau, an autonomous region on the south coast of China, and spoke about the importance of exposure to different cultures.

“Exposure to diversity is the main way that we can educate people into the different culture that exist in our world,” Beidacki said.

Session Two

Senior nursing major Colten Dalton opened the second session by telling the audience about his life as the child of an addict.

“As a society we often think about the addicts themselves and wonder what we can do to help them, but we still forget that addiction affects more than just the users,” Dalton said. “As the son of an addict, societal statistics and expectations are attached to me. I am choosing not to become those statistics because I am not my mom’s choices.”

Dalton said by moving in with his aunt and uncle at 18 years old, he learned how to make better choices away from his parents and came to understand the value of being in a healthy relationship.

The next speaker, senior psychology major Jessica Kotik, focused on reducing daily stress and anxiety through mindful meditation.

Kotik told the audience how research shows that mindful meditation can decrease stress, anxiety, depression and other aggressive and negative behaviors, while increasing attention, awareness, overall well-being and productivity.

She then asked the audience to participate in a mini mindfulness session meant to focus their minds and relax their bodies. Starting at their feet, Kotik asked the participants to relax the individual segments of their bodies one at a time, until they relaxed the neck and facial muscles.

“The best part about mindfulness is that it’s free, it’s flexible and it’s attainable,” Kotik said. “Mindfulness is a tool, and it should be used as such.” 

The third speaker, Oleg Lougheed, started his presentation by telling the heart-wrenching story of his early childhood in Russia as the son of a neglectful alcoholic. He also told the audience about his struggle to stay fed.

He described the night he awoke with pains from malnourishment. Unable to go back to sleep in a bedbug-infested bed, Lougheed searched desperately for change in his birth mother’s gray rain jacket to purchase a small bite to eat. Out of options, he decided to steal a loaf of bread in order to survive.

He went on to explain while he regrets the action he took that day, he does not regret the lesson he learned.

“Find a way to maximize the resources within your reach,” Lougheed said.

He then went on to tell the audience about his second lesson of success: envision a better day.

After enduring years of punishments in the forms of physical and mental abuse, Lougheed still found hope in the vision of a better day.  

He explained the confusion he felt by accepting a new identity and giving up his name and his past to be adopted by an American family.

Lougheed concluded with his fourth principle: Become something bigger than yourself.

Session Three

After a quick lunch break, the coordinator for the Office of Academic Diversity Outreach in the College of Communication and Information, Amanda Leu, took the stage.

Leu’s speech was centered around how she feels society has failed to see tattoos as more than a simple body modification.

“We all get tattoos for different reasons but I think there’s one thing all tattoo enthusiasts have in common, we definitely don’t just see our tattoos as simple body modification,” Leu said. “My tattoos are critically important aspects of who I am as a person and how I express myself to the rest of the world.”

Following Leu, Shawn Rohlin, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation, told the audience about his research into determining whether police officers racially profile.    

He explained going into his research that he pondered two questions: whether officers exhibit learning by doing and, more importantly, if officers’ proclivity to racially profiling is a function of their experience.

Through his research, Rohlin discovered that officers who have been on the police force for more than five years are tremendously less likely to show racial profiling tendencies.

“If it’s true that officers are getting better, it ends up leading to really important policy modifications,” Rohlin said.  “Bias and profiling can actually change.”

The last speaker of the session, senior magazine journalism major Ile-Ife Okantah, brought the audience to their feet with her riveting story about code switching and cultural diversity in America.

She described an impactful experience she had while visiting a black friend from Kent in the South Side of Chicago.

“Even though I’m black, his reality wasn’t my reality,” she said. “What I took away was how seamlessly he code switched based on how he navigates his environment in Kent. I had no idea that he came from that place.”

Okantah concluded by explaining the difficulties of learning to “speak white” for people who have been raised speaking ebonics within the black community. She encouraged listeners to remove their prejudices and stop making white a standard for intelligence.    

Session Four

Pam Harr, a high school English and women’s studies teacher and adjunct professor for the School of Communication Studies, opened session four with a picture of Brock Turner. On March 30, 2016, the state of California found Turner guilty of three felonies involving sexual assault and rape.

Harr then told the audience about the two Swedish graduate students who saw the assault taking place and intervened to help the unconscious girl.

“Doing something can be as simple as deciding to be the sober wingman or wingwoman when you and your friends go out or helping someone access the healing they need that’s available within our community,” Harr said.

She then explained the second solution to helping: delegating.

While she explained that pouring a drink on someone might not be the best idea, distractions such as asking someone to dance or offering them food may be more reliable ways to alleviate a potentially dangerous situation.  

“Nachos are always good, sexual assault — not so much,” Harr said.

To conclude the day of inspiring people and their stories, Michael Gershe, a survivor of a drunk driving crash which killed his mother and nearly himself as an infant, told the remarkable story of his near-death experience through the use of comedy.

He explained how he uses humor to make himself and the people he is around feel alive.

Gershe said he keeps an 8-by-10 photograph of him and his mother on his front door to remind himself to make someone laugh every day and to make a difference in someone’s life.

Madeline Scalzi is a student life and education reporter. Contact her at [email protected].