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Clarksburg High School Student Organizes Impressive Speakers for TEDx Event

In the Spring of 2017, then Clarksburg High School junior Matthew Evenson had an idea. Evenson had always enjoyed watching TED Talks, the 18-minutes or less educational videos about a myriad number of topics which informed and entertained the viewer.

Evenson wanted to bring Ted Talks to Clarksburg High School for a full day event. To make this a reality, Evenson had to create a club at school. With the help of some friends and an academic sponsor, an English teacher, Evenson began the journey that would bring a Navy admiral, a news anchor, NIH scientist, a police chief, a Maryland Circuit Court judge, a pediatric physician and novelist, and an FBI counter-terrorism specialist to Clarksburg to speak to high school students.

On Thursday, January 11, Evenson and the Clarksburg High School TED Talks Club hosted Clarksburg TEDx Youth@ClarksburgHS = an independently organized TED event, which featured TED style talks by eight of the regional and nationally recognized experts in the field — NBC4 Washington’s Aaron Gilchrist, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, U.S. Navy Adrimal Forrest Faison, Surgeon General of the Navy; former Assistant Director of Counter Terrorism at the FBI John Giacalone, scientist Becca McPherson of the National Institute of Aging, pediatrician and novelist Nadia Hashimi, and Maryland Circuit Court Judge Margaret Schweitzer.

“I have always loved to procrastinate by watching TED Talks,” said Everson, who is now a senior at CHS. “Last Spring I began thinking that it would be cool if I could bring an event like this to Clarksburg. I did some research, and I decided the only way to do this was if I got some peers behind me. So, I started a club at Clarksburg High School called the TEDx Club which was specifically designed to facilitate this event.”

The event had eight speakers and was designed to coincide with class periods during the school day. Not all students saw all eight speakers, but over 60 Clarksburg teachers agreed to give up their class time and bring their classes to the auditorium to listen to a TED Talk.

Everson said the first step was to get approval from TED Talks to produce the event. “I put together an application. Once they approved it, it was ‘Go Time.’ I contacted a bunch of potential speakers and conversed with them over email, and eventually, speakers began to say yes, and it snowballed from there.”

He said the first speakers to say yes were relatives of students the TEDx Club at school. “The admiral is the father of one of our club members. And once we had someone of the stature of Admiral Faison the other speakers began to snowball because he is such a high profile speaker,” said Everson. He said that former FBI Assistant Director John Giacalone was also the father of TEDx Club member.

The next step was convincing the school’s theater club to collaborate as the TEDx event would be taking place in the middle of prep for the spring production of Shrek. “Our TEDx event would not be possible without the generous work of CHStage.”

The theme for the event was “The Future is Loading.” It was topic that connects all eight speakers even though the talks were based on a wide-ranging array of experiences and expertise.

News4 Washington’s Aaron Gilchrist, who is the anchor for the NBC station’s morning news program talked about his career and the importance of being prepared. He showed off one of his Emmy’s to the packed house while imploring the next generation of news reporters to be willing to do anything to achieve their dreams. He spoke of missing New Years’ Eve parties because he was working, and going to bed early to wake up a 2:30 am to prepare for his 4:30 am on-air start.

MCPD Chief J. Thomas Manger spoke about how important it was for officers in the County to have cultural understanding to avoid putting themselves and the public in danger. He spoke of police shootings in other parts of the country and the effects of those events on policing here in Montgomery County, and the need to ask “Was it necessary?” when there is a police shooting not just if it was legal and within department guidelines for the use of violence.

Everson said that he tried to put together a diverse group of speakers. “I had topics in mind,” he said between running backstage to greet a new speaker. “I wanted a science person, so I emailed the National Institute of Health, and we got Dr. McPherson and her graduate student. I also wanted a humanities person, so it was really nice to have novelist Nadia Hashimi as one of our speakers. We were very glad to get whoever we could. The rooster we got is impressive.”

This year’s event went off without a hitch, but Everson isn’t sure if it will become an ongoing thing at Clarksburg High. “I don’t know if this will be a continuing thing. It really depends on if the students want it to continue. My teachers may be a little more stressed this time next year.”


Top: Clarksburg High School senior Matthew Everson talks to the media about putting together the TEDx event at school.

Next: Aaron Gilchrist, the morning anchor at NBC4 Washington talks to a packed house of Clarksburg students as part of the TEDx Youth@ClarksburgHS event.

Video: A short portion of Aaron Gilchrist’s TED Talk.

Next: TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Video: A portion of MCPD Chief J. Thomas Manger’s TED Talk.

Video: A portion of Maryland Circuit Court Judge Margaret Schweitzer’s talk at Clarksburg High School.

Video: Some of Dr. Becca McPherson’s TED Talk.

Video: A portion of Admiral Forest Faison’s TED Talk at Clarksburg High School.

Photos by Germantown Pulse.

Videos courtesy Clarksburg High School.

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