TEDx conferences are inspirational and motivating, and although you can’t beat seeing a speaker in person, a video feed is a good second best. Students at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif., don’t have to settle for second best, though. A group of innovative students decided to host their own TEDx conference. In 2011, when the inaugural event took place, Gunn High School became the first school in the nation to host such a conference.
If you think that a high school sponsored TEDx conference would bring in third-tier speakers, you’d be wrong. Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO of Adobe Systems, was one of the speakers at high school's 2011 TEDx conference. In its first year, a few hundred students attended, but the Gunn High School TEDx conference is on track to set a new record with its upcoming conference.
Christina Quattrocchi explains in her edSurge.com article, “For the current school year, co-directors Jaimie Shen and Ram will lead their club to make history once again becoming the first high school to host a big league TEDx event with more than 1,000 attendees. It’s scheduled for January 2014.”
How cool is that? The high school my son will attend offers a bevy of dual enrollment (high school class with college credit) courses including linear algebra and engineering 101 and another high school in the district was the first to offer a STEM diploma. Although these two high schools provide great opportunities to students, it’s not anywhere near the cool factor of hosting a large-scale TEDx conference.
Of course, it helps that Gunn High School is in Palo Alto, smack dab in the center of one of the largest tech hubs in the world, Silicon Valley. Companies that call Silicon Valley home include Hewlett-Packard, Google, Apple, Cisco Systems, Facebook, Yahoo!, Intel and the list goes on. Many of the students who attend Gunn High School probably have parents who work at one of these tech giants and so lining up speakers may not be that difficult.
Regardless of its location and easy access to TEDx-level speakers, the students at the school are the ones who should get the credit for setting up the conference. These bright young minds are the future of Silicon Valley, and if the growth of the Gunn High School TEDx conference is any indication of future successes, I think we’re in for some great innovation coming out of the region over the next decade.