David Hotler, Upper School Technology Integrator
How did this all start?
I had done a summer leadership program at Brown University that focused on Global Engagement. We learned how to apply leadership skills to our lives to make real change. During the program, I had developed an action plan that I could basically apply to any idea to get it in motion. The school year after that summer, I asked myself what really mattered to me. This was right around when I met my TEDx mentor and realized that bringing this to my school was the idea that mattered to me.
Tell us about your TEDx mentor?
During the summer of my sophomore year, I had spoken to an old friend who had studied at ASM. At the time, she was proposing to her school that they host a TEDx event. I was shocked! I didn’t know young adults could do this! I was 16 at the time and so was she. I thought to myself, “What an amazing initiative and a great idea!”. Hosting a TEDx event is truly a way to solidify the international school experience. My friend became my “TEDx mentor” and even let me see the initial documents and frameworks they were using at her school in Mexico.
How did you get the idea off the ground?
To get things going I decided to approach my friend, Carolina, and she agreed to help. We approached the ASM administration team about the event and got the green light to find students to support it. As the co-president of the Global Citizens Club, I was able to pitch the idea to other members and they all agreed to get involved and help.
What was the first big ah-ha moment, or “win” for the team?
When we sent out the applications to all of the ASM community, even alumni, and got back amazing submissions. It was the moment when it got real. So many good ideas came back. We all sat down as a team and picked the top ten and it was so amazing. In the end, it’s all about the speakers and to see so many applications from our community was amazing.
What was going through your mind when you watched all the application videos for the first time?
The feeling of gratitude, to be honest. At that time it was just me and Carolina and the Global Citizens Club team, no adults had gotten involved. I really felt a sense of trust and responsibility because these people were counting on us. It was a great feeling but also one that carried a lot of responsibility.
What was an obstacle that you and your team faced and overcame?
Well, Trimester 1 of senior year is hard. Coming off summer having done the pre-work for TEDx, we had our work cut out for us. I had to keep the team engaged while we were all applying for college, preparing for exams, and being seniors during COVID. We really leaned on each other to stay engaged and calm and keep working. We also started preparing late. COVID slowed down the start of our club which gave us a late start getting things going. I also had to really prioritize my life. For example, my college applications were turned in early, in October, so that I could get it out of the way and focus on TEDx and school. I had a clear mind after that and looking back it was definitely the right decision.
Days out from the event, what’s going through your head?
We still hadn’t comprehended that this was really happening. It felt unbelievable until the day of and we saw the professional production team, the speakers with their microphones, and the whole school behind it. We had speakers from outside the school, we had lots of moving parts. It was pure enthusiasm at this point and we were looking back and thinking man we did so much to get here. It didn’t really feel tangible until that moment. We were feeling so very bubbly.
Post-event, how are you feeling?
So proud. So, so proud. I am proud of the TEDx Youth@ASM team, the way we managed it and stuck together, and got the work done. Who would have expected that a bunch of 15 to 18-year-olds would be able to pull this off during COVID in our senior year? So many things should have stopped us but they didn’t. After it was over I realized that this really is a legacy that will last a long time. I am so proud that we started this.
What else would you like to say?
If I could get a message to other young leaders at my school and around the world it would be that you can do hard things like this, don’t shy away from opportunities to lead and organize your peers. ASM provides so many opportunities to students. The admin we have now support student leadership and initiative so much. It’s a bummer so many kids think that they can’t do something like this.