Tedx Talk an Inspirational Success at Sage Hill

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By Elizabeth Greenberg | NB Indy

Jim Abbott, former professional baseball player and Olympian who was born without a right hand, speaks during Sage Hill School’s Tedx talk on Friday. — Photo by Elizabeth Greenberg ©
Jim Abbott, former professional baseball player and Olympian who was born without a right hand, speaks during Sage Hill School’s Tedx talk on Friday.
— Photo by Elizabeth Greenberg ©

Working throughout the school year, show time finally approached a group of dedicated students at Sage Hill School.

The Hot Box Studio on the Newport Coast campus reached full capacity Friday night for a TEDx talk hosted by TEDxSage. Students, parents, and Orange County residents listened to eight speakers, the main theme being “The Big Picture.”

The group of seniors and juniors, including Cindy Choi, Kate Kim, Max Nanula, Nelson Kim, Shane Larimer, Aimee Rowe, Jafeth Orozco, and Cameron Knollenberg spent months contacting speakers and coordinating the event in order to bring the world class speeches of TED Talks to Sage Hill.

The TEDx event’s eight speakers came from varying walks of life, including an Olympic athlete, an ex-baseball player, a founder of Sage Hill school, a photographer, a medical innovator, and three student speakers.

Opening with a video of a Clint Smith TED Talk about the power of speaking and the importance of using one’s voice, the crowd was immediately inspired as people shuffled to fill up every seat.

Starting with Karina Hamilton, a founder of Sage Hill School, the presentation immediately hit full throttle as an expose in how to succeed against all odds, which seemed to be the theme throughout the presentation.

“We are sitting in a theatre, in a school, that shouldn’t exist,” Hamilton began the story of how Sage Hill School became a reality as an allegory on how to accomplish one’s own dreams.

A small group of dedicated parents wanted a school with a balance between academics, arts, athletics, and service. Through hard work, shutting out the naysayers, and surrounding themselves with doers, the group almost came up short right before a deadline. They needed 25 million dollars to start construction.

“An anonymous donor came forward, and said ‘I will give you $15 million, if you can raise $10 million,’” Hamilton explained. “The twist was that we had to do it in 10 weeks.”

Through all the pressure, the group was able to reach their goal, and the school is here today as one of Orange County’s top schools, with successful students in academics, art, athletics, and service, achieving a the goal of balance and diversity on a campus that is always improving.

The closing talk was highly anticipated and from a well-known source: Jim Abbott, an ex-professional baseball player. Known for being a one handed pitcher, Abbott grew up in Flint Mich., and knows that his hometown can dig deep to their roots to get through their struggle.

Though he faced intense challenges, Abbott gives little credit to himself and thanks his parents, teachers, and coaches, from the second grade teacher who taught him to tie his shoes to his father who figured out a way for him to catch and throw with one arm, to a football coach who got him to join the team and become the quarterback.

Sage Hill senior Amanda Ong, an activist on the subject of racial representation in the media, speaks during Sage Hill School’s Tedx talk on Friday. — Photo by Elizabeth Greenberg ©
Sage Hill senior Amanda Ong, an activist on the subject of racial representation in the media, speaks during Sage Hill School’s Tedx talk on Friday.
— Photo by Elizabeth Greenberg ©

“Imagine if we could look at misfortune, and challenge, and adversity, as if it was a gift, as if it was a chance to reveal inner strength, as if we could embrace those challenges that come at us,” Abbott said. “What I’ve always loved about Sage Hill School, is that it doesn’t matter how you were born.”

Sage Hill began to exemplify this diversity and balance with another presenter, Jacob Fish, a senior at Sage Hill School that will be attending Berklee College of Music in Boston next year. A passion for both history and music lead Fish to present on the music of Ancient Greece, which, with close study of ancient Greek texts and artifacts, can be recreated in perfect accuracy. The music of two thousand years ago can be heard today, connecting us not only to our past, but also to our distant future. Fish explained that “music is the universal language,” with some carefully keyed piano notes.

Aimee Rowe, a junior at Sage Hill School and a member of the TEDx club introduced the next presenter, her father, Stanton Rowe, an innovator in the cardiovascular field, who helped to invent a new artificial heart valve and procedure for Aortic Stenosis that avoids open heart surgery. Stowe credited a nihilist viewpoint as the drive for innovation; never seeing the current mode as good enough is what drove him and other inventors toward revolutionary contribution like the new valve.

The valve is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin and is pushed up to the damaged or blocked valve in the heart, where a balloon is filled up to open the valve, and replace the old valve with the new TAVI valve. Lives have been dramatically changed and the entire medical community is affected by the success of the operations.

Dr. Mark Crear, an Olympic athlete, also inspired the crowd with his advice on how to face fears and achieve success. Two weeks before his first Olympic race, Crear broke his arm, and though everyone expected him to quit, Crear raced with a partially healed arm, and finished in second place in the 110-meter hurdle race at the 1996 Olympics. In 2000 he won the bronze in the same race with a double hernia.

An accomplished and determined teenager, Amanda Ong impressed all with her eloquent speech on diversity in the media. She called attention to the discrepancies in Hollywood on proper racial representation. Ong is the co-chair of Sage Advocates of Multicultural Education, and is well versed in the under-representation of minority groups in many aspects of life.  

“When we fail to represent certain groups, we say that their stories don’t matter that much, or aren’t interesting, or don’t exist. And this is a relevant problem in today,” Ong said, relating a endemic problem in the Oscars to the current scandal of the day.

Sage Hill alumni (2007) Stuart Palley, a professional wildfire photographer, speaks during Sage Hill School’s Tedx talk on Friday. — Photo by Elizabeth Greenberg ©
Sage Hill alumni (2007) Stuart Palley, a professional wildfire photographer, speaks during Sage Hill School’s Tedx talk on Friday.
— Photo by Elizabeth Greenberg ©

A photographer of forest fires, Stuart Palley, a Sage Hill School alumnus, may not have had such a job about ten years ago. This was his point in his speech about super specialization in the work force, a double-edged sword allowing for at home innovations, but also causing some slumps in the small town economies.

Millie Tanner, at the age of 18, not only understands the rewards and hard work that comes with being a professional athlete, but also the hardships a female professional athlete unfairly faces.

Told that “girls grow up, find makeup, find a boy, get married, and get pregnant” as a reason female athletes are not given as much compensation for their work, Tanner is hopeful that her young success as a cyclist can continue to change the game for female athletes and pave the way for more equal treatment on and off the track.

Overall, the event was an inspirational success that Sage Hill hopes to duplicate with more Tedx talks in the future.

For more information, visit sagehillschool.org.

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