By: Saleh Al-Furaij (YES 2015 - 2016, Kuwait, hosted by AYA in Effingham, SC)
TEDx [email protected], one of five TEDx Youth conferences in the Gulf Region and the first and only one in Kuwait… this is what I have accomplished as the president of the TEDx Youth Committee in the American School of Kuwait.
Early in my senior year of high school, I received an email from one of the teachers in our English department sharing her idea to organize the first ever TEDx Youth event in our school. All it took was one simple, “Sure I’d love to help out", to get this whole thing started. I quickly learned that this email was only sent to me, since other teachers recommended me as the most qualified candidate for this opportunity. I was humbled by this news, but it quickly led me down a path of introspection about why I was chosen and what exactly had to be done.
As a former cultural exchange student and a YES alumnus, I had become very skilled as an individual. I had become someone that my peers as well as my teachers depend on when in need, whether it was to be a leader, to be the responsible one, to be the one that can reach out to the community, or to be the one that will not give up when faced with an obstacle.
With that in mind, I sat down with the teacher organizing the event, Ms. Hawkins, and soon we had decided to set up an event planning committee. We emailed students I believed to be capable of achieving such a task. What was once just Ms. Hawkins and I became a committee of eight students more than qualified for this kind of project.
After that, it was nothing but constant work. The first thing we accomplished was submitting an application for a licensing agreement by the TED organization. This meant that we would be able to organize this event under the name of the organization which would increase the popularity of the event. After receiving an okay by the organization we got straight to work.
Although getting approved for the licensing agreement was exciting, it set a few challenges for us. Our ideas for such a show were limited. There were certain rules and regulations we absolutely had to abide by, such as the format of the name of the show, or the number of seats we were allowed to sell for the show. The budget itself was an issue, as well as the fact that being a part of this organization meant that we weren’t going to be a school sponsored event. The biggest issue, and the first we were face with, was the question of who we were going to have speak in our TEDx Youth conference.
In the span of 26 weeks, my committee was able to not only resolve these issues, but improve on them by miles. We hosted auditions for students, teachers, and parents to present ideas that revolved around our school mission - practice compassion, learn for life, and make a difference. The committee members and I served as the judges as we selected our top twelve speakers for the show. We also got the CEO and owner of our school to sponsor and attend our show. Moreover, we extended an invitation to the US Ambassador to Kuwait, Amb. Lawrence R. Silverman, to give brief remarks at the event. Though he wasn't able to attend in the end, we were excited that he accepted our invitation.
In hindsight, it’s safe to say I underestimated the grand scale of an event like this. It went from a basic idea of a show where students could give cool speeches, to being an actual TEDx Youth event, making us one of a kind in Kuwait. I’m more than grateful to have been given an opportunity to lead such an event and am truly humbled by what I can accomplish as a result of the things I learned from being a part of the YES Program.