10 Speakers at TEDxFoggyBottom That’ll Inspire Change

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Who doesn’t leave TEDx talks feeling emotional and inspired? At this year’s TEDxFoggyBottom conference, George Washington University students and community members listened to speakers talk about the theme In Metamorphosis, focusing on one’s evolution throughout life. Feeling the FOMO? We have your back.

Check out these 10 TEDxFoggyBottom speakers that’ll get you inspired AF.

1. Emma Yang

Your high school resume falls flat in comparison to this eighth grader’s strong repertoire. A STEM advocate passionate about technology, Yang has already coded two apps that save lives. ConcussionChecker helps detect concussions early. Timeless helps Alzheimer’s patients lead better lives. Yang also participates in national and international STEM contests, conferences and organizations, and has played piano at Carnegie Hall twice. You can’t help but want to get involved after listening to her talk. Her TEDx talk will motivate you to turn off your Netflix, dust away your Cheetos stains and do something useful with your life.

2. Jinahie

A self described artivist, Jinahie combines art and activism to create a unique platform on social justice issues. “Artivism gives us the space to dream, to imagine and maybe…to make a new world that is just waiting to be defined,” Jinahie said during her talk. This activist and performance artist travels around the nation at places like the United Nations and the Sundance Film Festival speaking about important social justice issues. At TEDxFoggyBottom, Jinahe spoke about female virginity and female genital mutilation. Jinahe represents someone bringing art to create change, especially for someone interested in both art and activism.

3. Jessica Kidd

The hospital can develop into a demoralizing experience if you stay in there for too long. However, that depressing feeling doesn’t have to stay during a long-term visit to the hospital. Jessica Kidd founded Gracie’s Gowns to uplift the spirits of more than 3,000 children who stay in the hospital long-term. This supermom creates personalized hospital gowns for those children, and she loves bringing their personalities to their gowns. And if she doesn’t inspire you to pick up a sewing needle and help your community, then nothing will.

4. Jon Staff

Ever feel incredibly stressed over your school work, finding the perfect filter for your Instagram photo or running late to class or work? Jon Staff created the perfect solution in the form of Getaway. With Getaway, people can disconnect from work, technology and city to the tranquility of nature. In addition to sharing his story, Staff also offered suggestions that would help people destress, like cellphone-free zones. Next time you want to escape the stress of college life and take care of your mental health, then consider frolicking in a field of flowers and sitting in solitude by a river.

5. Jessica Hawkins

This transgender D.C. police officer and MPD’s LGBTQ+ liaison shared her long and difficult road to feeling comfortable and true to herself. “It took much more to become Jessica than it did to become Sergeant. I came to terms with my gender identity. I am female,” Hawkins said in her talk. For anyone who is transgender or struggling with gender identity or sexual orientation, Hawkins vows to be an advocate and champion for them through her work and life story. Other colleges and universities across the nation hold similar messages of inclusion, which comforts LGBTQ+ college students struggling with their identities. “My hope for the future is simple: Transgender people are seen as men and women or boys and girls without the adjective.”

6. Marcus Bullock

Marcus Bullock shared a truly inspirational story on how he went from being a prison inmate to an entrepreneur helping former inmates. He went to prison at 15. After being released in 2004, he knew that his personal experience would shape how he viewed the world. “How will you contribute to a world that plagues us with mass-incarceration?” Bullock asked during his talk. Bullock’s answer: Launch small businesses that help people like him get back on their feet. His painting business employs other former inmates, but Bullock mostly talked about his app Flikshop, which enables incarcerated people to communicate with their loved ones through postcards. Bullock truly demonstrates how one’s tumultuous past dictates but doesn’t define his future.

7. Dr. Greg Stanton

With the power of the law, Dr. Greg Stanton brought the orchestrators of the Cambodian Genocide to justice. Going to Cambodia after its genocide completely changed this scholar’s life. He shared his story and long road to fight for justice with the TEDx audience, who gave him a standing ovation at the end of his talk. Dr. Stanton serves as a great inspiration for aspiring law students who double as aspiring humanitarians. If he can bring those in charge of the Cambodian genocide to justice, then you can pass your MCAT.

8. Stacie Whisonant

Already stressed over your student loans? Do you feel its impending doom? Stacie Whisonant, who worked for bank HSBC after serving in the Army, wanted to change how college students pay their tuitions. She founded Pay Your Tuition Funds to help struggling students through technology. Because sometimes, finding (legal) alternatives to pay your student debt is the best option.

9. Dr. Monica Ruiz

GWU’s very own Dr. Monica Ruiz focused her talk about public health and substance use. Dr. Ruiz channeled her frustration over how policy makers handled the crisis into years-long research and focus on reducing new HIV infections with clean syringe exchange. Now the amount of new HIV cases have dropped. Dr. Ruiz’s advice for people to facilitate change? She wants them to stay angry. Why? Anger brings passion into action.

10. Dr. Carol O’Donnell

Dr. Carol O’Donnell is a real life Ms. Frizzle. She specializes in science education, working at places such as the Smithsonian and the Department of Education. “There’s little doubt that even as we lead more digital lives, we still crave, deeply crave, tactile experiences,” Dr. O’Donnell said in her talk. That’s where the beauty and interest in science comes in. She first got into science in her childhood, when she cut an earthworm in half and examined its anatomy. Dr. O’Donnell believes that science holds a bigger impact when doing something like holding an apple compared to just looking at a picture of one. Basically, she advocated hands-on experiences in science, which means yes, you need to take that lab science class to graduate.

*Updated on September 1, 2017 by Mariya Khan to include embedded Youtube links of the TedxFoggyBottom talks.

Mariya is a junior at the George Washington University studying English/ Creative Writing and Journalism. When she's not watching crime shows, dancing to 80's music or cooking, you'll find her talking about her #OnlyatGW moments. Like any college student, she loves taking advantage of every (free) thing D.C. has to offer.

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