The inaugural TEDxYouth@Chatham was held at Chatham High School on Friday, June 14, 2019. Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa described the event as “The most impactful day in the school district since residents voted to create it in 1987”. From the moment Aree Kim designed the logo to the last dessert tray being cleared, this event brought students, teachers, administrators, and volunteers across the District together.

The musical performances outside by the CHS Select Choir, the CHS Chamber Quartet and a group of soloists in “Broadway Under the Sun” set the tone for the evening. The CHS Jazz Band kicked off the events inside with music before four students and four adult speakers took the stage Friday night to talk about “The Power of Connection”. Featured student speakers
were part of Christina McCabe’s class at Chatham High School called “Talking the Talk,” which culminated in presenting a formal TED talk at the end of the class. Students also received formal coaching from Anne Devlin, a TED Board Member and Chatham parent.

McCabe was the perfect host for the evening, combining her passion for TED and teaching. Her connection to her students and to the material was evident in delivering a powerful evening that fostered connection on so many different levels.

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Chatham High School Senior Collin Goldbach kicked off the evening with a talk titled “Veterans and How a Conversation Can Save a Life”. Shannon Albarelli followed with an impactful message on how 8 minutes of meditation a day is more powerful than any medication you could take. Matthew Sidorovich shared how his connection to the Semicolon movement helped him decide to continue on with life in a new direction. Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa inspired us with running lessons that showed the power of incrementalism and challenged us to apply that approach to education.

Following intermission, Jackson Thorne spoke about how disengaging from social media can yield impactful connections through conversation. Karen Coccari Bellas, owner of Sorriso Kitchen, shared the story of how her son, LJ, who was born with Down Syndrome inspired her to “Unlock the Power of Her Gifts,” and she encouraged us all to find ways to share ours. Olivia Polemeni and Brian Curci from the Play Unified Club conveyed just how powerful play can be. Marissa Sullivan reminded us that something as simple as ice cream can bring people together in meaningful ways. Dan Handerhan brought tears to our eyes when he shared how his nine-year-old daughter, Tessa, changed his perspective on being different.

Karen Chase, assistant superintendent shared that launching TEDxYouth@Chatham has been the highlight of her career and feels that the impact of the evening will linger in the hearts and minds of all who attended for many years to come. McCabe said, “The event did exactly what
we hoped it would— it gave voice, it encouraged connection and sparked conversation, it will without a doubt change lives”. Collin Goldbach reflected on the night commenting that the presenters “won’t fully understand the impact of what they did until later”. The students who participated in the class have continually shared how being part of this experience has transformed them. The response to the event has been overwhelmingly positive and there are plans to make the event recurring. This is more than just an event for the School District of the Chathams, it is a commitment to helping students engage, develop confidence and strong communication skills. Next week teachers will participate in a TED focused professional development course called “Building Voices.”

This event was made possible by the Chatham Education Foundation and the production support of Damian Bazadona and his team at Situation Interactive. The Chatham Education Foundation is a leading partner of the School District of the Chathams. Our mission is to help students “Reach Higher” by providing grant funding and volunteer support to facilitate innovative ideas that enrich education and support future-focused initiatives. More information about the
Chatham Education Foundation can be found at their website .

The Chatham Education Foundation would also like to thank the event underwriters Colin Devlin, Keller Williams Realty, Prime Construction & Remodeling, The Pennbrook Group of Merrill Lynch, and GoBallistic Sports. We are also thankful to ShopRite, Splurge Bakery, Baba’s Bakery & Cafe, Dunkin Donuts, and D’licious and Stop & Shop for donating food and drinks for the post-event dessert reception.

If you were unable to attend TEDxYouth@chatham, all talks will be posted on as soon as they are available for release.