Grass Valley hosts first local TEDxYouthDay Saturday |

Grass Valley hosts first local TEDxYouthDay Saturday

Executive coach Juliet Erickson, right, works with student Holly Lemyre to practice her TedXYouth presentation in the Multi-Purpose room at Sierra College, Nevada County Campus, Tuesday afternoon. Lemyre will be one of eight speakers at the Saturday event.
John Hart/ | The Union

Everything great starts from one simple idea, but in a society overwhelmed by voices and media, many ideas are never heard — drowned out before they can ever completely evolve.

This Saturday, a handful of ideas will be shared at TEDxYouthDay at Sierra College, one of hundreds of TEDxYouth events happening around the world.

With a theme of art and innovation, eight speakers, the majority from Nevada County, will take the stage to share ideas about art, architecture, nature, peace, physics, health, technology, music and youth.

The event is part of TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “ideas worth spreading.”

“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring a global phenomenon to Grass Valley. It’s interesting to see the idea of a big idea. It’s about getting people to talk.”
Jesse Locks
executive director of TEDxGrassValley

TED was established in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from technology, entertainment and design.

It grew exponentially and has welcomed the likes of Al Gore, Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson and former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown among its many speakers.

This year marks the fourth anniversary of TEDxYouthDay, a series of events designed to empower and inspire young people around the world.

According to Jesse Locks, executive director of TEDxGrassValley, as more and more people became aware of TED, there became a higher demand for events. Although the organization is exclusive, organizers wanted to create grassroots community-based activities, so they began licensing branches.

Locks discovered TED online (all speakers and events are posted on their website) and became qualified to put on events. This is the fifth TEDxGrassValley event and the first local TEDxYouth event.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring a global phenomenon to Grass Valley,” Locks said.

“It’s interesting to see the idea of a big idea. It’s about getting people to talk.”

Though the live events and conferences are exclusive, all speeches and discussions are recorded and available for the public to view, learn from and be inspired by, including those taking part in Saturday’s event.

More than 30 people applied to be a part of the event and only eight were selected, among them Hannah Oitzman, a 16-year-old junior at Ghidotti Early College High School.

An aspiring architect who’s been blogging about her projects, goals and ideas since she was 12, Oitzman will be speaking about architecture and how it influences our daily lives.

“Ever since I saw TEDTalk, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really cool, I want to do that — that’s on my bucket list.’ My sculpting teacher told me about it, so why not apply for it? I’m passionate about architecture and sharing my ideas.”

Being able to convey ideas and connect with the audience is a key part of the speaker selection. Even those who are chosen receive (prestigious and enviable) training from national speakers, including Juliet Erickson.

Erickson is an executive coach and communication specialist who consults international corporate executives. One of her many accomplishments was her successful coaching of the London Olympic Bid Team.

Also coaching the speakers is Barry Friedman, one half of the Raspyni Brothers (international juggling champions, Guinness Record holders and recurring “Tonight Show” guests).

Friedman is a Nevada County resident and will be hosting Saturday’s event. In addition to speaking at countless corporate seminars, he has coached many speakers on fine-tuning their performances.

This is the first time he has coached TED speakers, particularly young adults. This past week he worked with both Oitzman and Nevada Union High student Connor Hayes (who is speaking about quantum physics).

“They’re going to be amazing,” Friedman said. “I’m so proud of these people and to help deliver their vision.”

Friedman cultivated his speakers by helping them take their stories and making them relatable to the audience.

“You want people to walk out of there differently because of their speech. It’s what I help these people discover — to unwrap their ideas,” he said.

Rounding out the speakers are Kim Bateman, executive dean at Sierra College Tahoe-Truckee campus, speaking about sharing, ritualizing and transforming grief; biochemist Katherine Reid, whose speech is titled “Unblind my Mind: What are we Eating”; Livia Keene, sharing her thoughts about unconventional and passionate learning; David Wallace, retired electrical engineer and community activist whose topic is “Be a Peacekeeper”; Holly Lemyre, a student speaking about cybertrafficking; and architect Nancy Fleming discussing the evolution of land art.

TEDxYouth@Grass Valley begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. A live stream from the national event in New Orleans will take place in the morning with local talks beginning at 1:15 p.m. Tickets are $20 general and $10 for students. Seating is limited to 100 guests.

For information about this weekend’s event, go to To learn more about TED or to view “TEDTalks,” which are posted daily, go to

Freelance writer Katrina Paz lives in Grass Valley.

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