The two youngest speakers at this month’s TEDxSurrey are students at Fraser Heights Secondary.
Grade 12 student Muhaddisa Sarwari and Finn Liu, Grade 11, are among a dozen speakers chosen from more than 60 applications to participate in the event, set for Saturday, Jan. 21 at Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey.
For a fifth year, TEDxSurrey returns as a forum for technology, entertainment and design (the “TED”) and talks delivered by a dozen interesting people in 18 minutes or less.
This time around, a partnership with Surrey School District involves having students among the featured speakers.
Both Muhaddisa and Finn had seen TED Talks before, and heard about the opening for students through posts online.
“My brother actually sent it to me, it was a Facebook post and I was really excited to see it,” Muhaddisa says in a story posted on Surrey Schools’ website. “You don’t usually see a lot of students presenting at events like TEDx.”
Finn will talk about the need for inclusion for Asian transgender-identifying individuals, and Muhaddisa will touch on her experience with prejudice as a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan while immigrating to Canada three years ago.
Finn noted a lack of Asian voices for trans identities in previous TED Talks, and felt his experience would resonate with others.
“Gender identity isn’t usually discussed in the Asian community, especially with heavily traditional values and doing things like not being yourself to better your community or to hide your identity because you don’t want to bring shame on your family,” Finn says in the post on surreyschools.ca.
“I thought it was very important to bring my own story to inspire others who might be in the same situation as me, but also those who might have negative connotations to actually see what it’s like in my shoes and recognize the importance of communicating these issues to achieve that inclusion.”
Both of the students hope the TEDx audience will take some value out of hearing student voices.
“It’s important for them to hear a youthful or teenage perspective,” Muhaddisa says. “Usually TED Talk speakers are adults or experts and professionals, so it’s an eye-opening experience to see what young people of today have to say about their communities, their experiences and their personal lives.”
On Jan. 21, the 10 other speakers are Dr. Stefanie Green, Carla Guerrera, Dr. Kai Chan, Kal Dosanjh, Kelsey Carignan, Linda Fawcus, Marilyn Norry, Dr. Tanya Gee, Derek Strokon and Kai Scott. Their bios and photos are posted on tedxsurrey.ca/2023-speakers.
Musical performers will include Victoria-based band Shale, White Rock singer-songwriter Richard Tichelman and the Screaming Eagles Marching Band from Abbotsford.
Event tickets are sold online at tedxsurrey.ca, for either $79 (regular rows) or $99 (premium), or call 604-507-6355 for group rates. Lunch is included with a ticket to TEDxSurrey, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Prior to 2021, the event was known as TEDxBearCreekPark.