Students give TEDx Talks at Battle High School

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COLUMBIA — Public speaking may intimidate some, but for 21 Battle High School Students, fear was no match for their powerful messages.

Similar to the TED Talks you may see online or attend in person, Friday's TEDxBattle hosted by BHS featured 33 talks to a high school-age audience. Speakers focused on the theme “Transcend the Block.” These talks discussed life issues and overcoming obstacles and some talks touched on poverty, racism, peer pressure, the environment, disability and persistence.

Jordan Smith, a TEDxBattle coordinator and BHS English teacher, said he shows TED Talks to his students regularly and said the event aimed to give students the opportunity to create TED Talks of their own. 

"The students are really enjoying it," Smith said. "They're nervous, they're putting themselves out there and they're doing a great job."

Over 100 students were recommended by teachers to give a talk, and 23 were selected to speak in front of their peers. Smith said the theme "Transcend the Block" is relatable to the high school archetype and the human experience.

"We heard a talk today on overcoming anxiety, on a friend committing suicide, on accepting your personal identity," Smith said. "I think there's something all of our students can identify with."

Smith said some of today's students talks are stories they have never shared with their parents or close friends. Although the number of in-person attendees was limited, all BHS students were encouraged to watch the talks via livestream. 

"I think it's allowing our community at Battle High School to feel very well connected," Smith said. "I feel like we feel like a really big family today that came together."

One BHS student spoke on her experience with peer pressure in middle and high school.

Mekhia Thompson, a junior, said she wanted to bring a new perspective to the issue many of her classmates face.

"Peer pressure kind of has a connotation with just drinking and drugs and I wanted to explain that being pressured into doing things that make you feel uncomfortable can expand into your everyday life." Thompson said.

Thompson said she enjoys watching TED Talks in class and said the talks her classmates presented today were just as inspiring.

"They have been sparking so much interest," Thompson said. "The words they have been saying I relate with and that's what I like about them."

12 professionals were also invited to speak at TEDxBattle. A food journalist, resource officer, author, educator, film producer and businessman offered their perspective on how to "Transcend the Block."

Smith said he views today's talks as a success.

"I think this is incredible," Smith said. "I think we can definitely make this an annual thing."

Thompson said she takes pride in her school for hosting TEDxBattle.