Students talk about their passions at TEDx Dartmouth High

Feb 8, 2019

Students at Dartmouth High School got to take a break from class on Friday to learn from someone new: their peers.

February was the fourth edition of TEDx Dartmouth. Sixteen students gave presentations about something they considered to be a “Key to the World,” which was this year’s theme. Topics included everything from start-ups and artificial intelligence to the lack of female representation in Hollywood and commercialization of art.

Madison Correia gave a presentation about what ADHD is and debunked stereotypes about the disorder, while exploring the way ADHD is influenced by and perceived in different cultures. Her talk was informed by her own experience being diagnosed with ADHD as a 16 year old, and ways in which she felt students with ADHD are misperceived as “bad kids,” when the disorder can manifest in many different ways.

“I did a Ted talk last year about the opioid crisis,” Correia said. “A lot of people came up to me and said that my personal experience with it really impacted them and they could relate to it. It made me feel like I was making a difference in the world, which was a really cool feeling, so I wanted to get involved again this year with something that was also important to me.”

Last year, her talk was in part about a family member who had passed away from the opioid epidemic, so this year’s topic was easier to tackle.

Alexis Arruda, who had the first presentation of the day, gave a talk titled “This Does Not Equal That: Illusory and Spurious Correlation,” which examined the use and misuse of statistics in the media.

When Arruda first learned about illusory correlations, she realized it was something people see every day and might not understand or recognize. She is particularly interested in ways math and science are a part of people’s everyday lives, and statistics in the media are a perfect example.

“I also mentioned that sometimes news doesn’t cite or source their articles, and that can become really problematic,” Arruda said. “The numbers behind the statistics you see are very abstract.”

Rebecca Benoit, who will be attending MassArt next year, presented about the commercialization of art, which is an issue she will have to navigate as she builds a career in the arts. Benoit examined how artists must, to a certain extent, make work that will sell, and looked at the ethical boundary between making art that is appealing to a wide range of people that is also true to the artist’s vision and “selling out,” which she defined as making art purely for profit.

”There’s a difference between wanting to be a successful artist who creates to create, and becoming a sell-out who’s just in it for the money,” Benoit said. Her presentation not only examined the phenomena, but offered a moral critique of the art world and the commerce that surrounds it.

All of the student presenters, along with those who helped out with lighting, sound, and video, were volunteers and were not receiving class credit. The program is run by teachers Hilary Sousa and Elizabeth True, with Peter Chase of DCTV tackling the tech side of the production.

“We wanted it to be student-centered,” said Sousa. “That’s our focus, and that’s what we’re striving for each year.”

This year, the program had two big changes: It expanded to the whole day from a half day — with a new audience cycling in each period for two or three talks — and included a question and answer period.

“We’re always nervous, we’re always excited, and they just always do fantastic,” said True. “We’re proud mamas at this point, to be honest.”