TEDxUMassAmherst 2014

What is there even to say? It’s impossible to describe to anyone who wasn’t there. My entire senior year has been spent building up to this one day and now that it is over I am truly speechless. I feel so blessed to have been chosen to embark on this mission with these 35 AMAZING, brilliant, sincere people that will now be forever friends.  I don’t even think I’ve had 35 friends total over the course of my 22 years and now I have 35 entirely new ones which is just bizarre to think about.

The day began INSANELY early and for any of you who know me, you would think I would have been miserable.  However, the SECOND that 4:15am alarm went off, my feet hit the ground and didn’t stop moving until about…5 minutes ago.  I did not feel one minute of exhaustion because I was surrounded by such incredible energy.  The speakers were all SO incredible but I had the pleasure of forming a special bond with two in particular. I’d pretty much been on cloud nine since the night before when I first met Kaitlin Roig, hero of Sandy Hook Elementary School for the first time.  Besides being absolutely gorgeous, she is one of the most modest and down to earth people I’ve ever met.  She offered me her flip flops last night when I broke mine, and then proceeded to ask if she could help set up for the event that SHE was speaking at! Just an all around amazing person. As for inspiration?  She’s top three, no doubt.  Ever since her talk, her words have been resonating in my head. “Outlook determines how you react, or not, to every situation in your life.” She was faced head on with sheer tragedy and the way she reacted to it is simply incredible.  She told me that she needed a way to get out of bed in the morning after the shooting.  She decided at that moment that she refused to let that angry young man define her, her students, or their control over their lives. She saved 15 lives that fateful day.  She then told me she doesn’t think of herself as a hero. Unbelievable. Let me tell ya, I was a hot mess after that talk and I know I was not the only one!

Derrick Gordon.  We all know the name but due to his shy personality, few of us really know the man behind the #BeTrue t-shirt and contagious smile.  This was his first public speech since his life changed forever, and it will undoubtedly not be his last.  We had ONE week to prepare for this and I can honestly say that working side by side with him day after day was more beneficial for me than it was for him.  I admire his courage, his honesty, and his confidence.  Keep this name in your head people because this kid is going places FAST and I can not wait to watch him grow as he embraces his true self.  Not gunna act like I didn’t shed a tear or two during his talk as well.  At the end of the day, I am truly blessed to call Derrick and Kaitlin my friends – something I would never be able to say if it weren’t for TEDxUMassAmherst.

My team? I can’t explain them to you. There are so many dimensions.  So many layers, personalities, cultures, and talents.  Where else can you find artists, tech specialists, writing geniuses, photographers, videographers, musicians, and so much more all in one close knit group?  Close knit may even be an understatement.  These people are family.  I can no longer imagine what life was like before them and I hope I never have to!  It’s mind-blowing that I can call these pure geniuses some of my now best friends.  They truly are so, so special.

To anyone who attended the event, I hope you had an amazing experience.  To quote my beautiful teammate Hailey:

 “If TEDxUMassAmherst is responsible for starting even one meaningful or interesting conversation, it will have all been worth it.”

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