WARREN, NJ - One of the highlights of this second half of the 2018-2019 School Year at Watchung Hills Regional High School was Thursday night, March 28, on the stage of the school’s Performing Arts Center (PAC), when nine students and a physics teacher shared stories of their explorations and challenges, at the 2019 edition of Ted X Youth@WHRHS.

The speakers also shared strategies on how to achieve personal growth, while also encouraging audience members to explore and broaden their own horizons.

The theme for this year’s TEDx event, the third such event during the last three years, was “Aspire.” What is TED? According to event literature, “TED is a conference for dreamers, thinkers, makers, and doers to help inspire them to make a difference in the world.”

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Past influential speakers at TED events across the country have included Microsoft’s Bill and Melinda Gates; Dame Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees; and American educator and entrepreneur Sal Khan. TEDxYouth is a TED conference geared towards high school and middle school students. The TEDxYouth@WHRHS annual event is an independently organized event which tries to bring a TEDYouth-like experience to Watchung Hills.

This Year’s Organizers And Speakers

The event, which reflected the school-wide strategy to encourage, recognize and grow from interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving learning and explorations, was organized by a collaboration of the Steering Committee, whichincluded: Students Davin Lui, Marilyn Du, Nina Iyer, Matt McCracken, Jordyn Youngelson, and Megan Krutz. 

The Faculty Advisers for the event included: Director of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Ellen Phelan, Supervisor of Mathematics and Business Dan Twisler, and Business Teacher Dianne Krutz.

Student speakers for this year’s conference at WHRHS were:Shefali Sahay, Surya Rai, Ishika Agrawal, Kaitlyn Roth, Eliana Sussner, Abby and Emma Kotar, Isha Nagpaul, and AnchalDhir. 

The faculty member who spoke was Physics Teacher Matthew Dellibovi.

Senior Shefali Sahay, who plans to attend next year the Mason Gross School for the Arts at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, spoke about aspiring to study graphic design, digital marketing and communications. She said she loves watching Netflix and Disney movies, and enjoys art and fashion. Sahay’stalk was inspired by how it is important for one to overcome challenges. She also displayed some of her own artworks in her presentation.

Sophomore Surya Rai, who aspires to be a lawyer, spoke about anxieties students face as adolescents and provided assurance that High school assessments and experiences may not tell the “whole” story regarding future success. He is an active participant in the Diversity, Economics, Model UN, and Mock Trial clubs. Outside of these clubs, Rai plays three instruments, including the piano, drums, and baritone sax, and he has played basketball since 6th grade.


Senior Ishika Agrawal, who plans to attend Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., explained that she aspires to apply her passion for music to continue organizing local volunteer music performances. She hopes to be actively engaged in serving the community as a writer, and advocating for social justice through the UNICEF Voices of Youth.  

Sophomore Kaitlyn Roth has a full range of interests and skills,including: Playing Ultimate Frisbee;  earning a second degree Black Belt in Taikwondo; and working toward her Gold Award in Girl Scouts, the equivalent of a Boy Scout Eagle Scout. She spoke about aspiring to convince the audience to live up to their own expectations, rather than to the expectations of others.

Junior Eliana Sussner said she has a thirst to read, write and learn new things, including history and languages. She shared that she aspires to counsel students: To find a balance in their passions; and to discern a career path. She shared that she would try to be savvy to the fact that an “ideal” career path may not necessarily be achieved along a “linear” path.

Juniors Abby and Emma Kotar are identical twins and very active in a variety of co-curricular activities and interests, both in school and out of school. They shared that they are in both similar and different school activities, which reflect their similar and different passions. They said they aspired to share with the audience some insights into how to be strong individuals who create their own destinies, despite their common interests and strikingly similar physical appearances. After all, they hypothesized, even though their fellow students are not identical twins, many teens their age and academic class are in the midst of both similar and different coming-of-age explorations.

Sophomore Isha Nagpaul, who has rich co-curricular interests and who plans to study pre-medicine in college, exploredcommon high school norms, and shared how she has learned to navigate them. She hoped she inspired others to find their own paths.

WHRHS Senior Anchal Dhir explained she is also a senior at Vocational and Technical High School, with a focus on vocal and acting training. She is president of the WHRHS chapter of the International Thespian Honor Society, is a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, and the Script and Cue Drama Program. She shared what she has learned about the importance of seeking spiritual balance in the material world.

14-year WHRHS Physics Teacher Matthew Dellibovi explained that he earned his teaching credentials through New Jersey’s Alternate Route Program, after having received his bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, and master’s degree in Education from Saint Peter’s College, Jersey City. He shared how his failures, as well as his successesin the classroom over the years, had shaped him into the teacher he is today. He suggested that students can learn valuable lessons for their own personal journeys through the careers they choose, and to understand they may find themselves adapting along the way.