Since 1984, the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference has grown exponentially into a global community of individuals presenting “ideas worth spreading” in every conceivable discipline. TED.com makes thousands of TED talks available for free; millions of viewers testify to the power of hearing these stories. In 2009, TEDx was created to support independent organizers who wanted to hold inspiring local events that would be accessible to a diverse and intergenerational audience, “creating a new community platform for activating ideas in action.” On November 4 and 5 at the Lincoln School in Brookline, Mass., TEDxYouth@BeaconStreet featured speakers with astounding stories of innovation and courage: two of them were Nobles’ own students.
As Bryan Thomas ’20 made his way across the darkened stage to a brightly lit circle of red carpet, the audience waited in quiet curiosity. His story, as it turned out, was that of a bright student and soccer star narrowly surviving a near-fatal brain hemorrhage from an arteriovenous malformation the summer before his freshman year at Nobles. He awoke from a coma three weeks later, paralyzed on his left side and partially blind. He is grateful to have regained much of his mobility, thanks to dedicated surgeons and physical therapists at Children’s Hospital Boston and Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, the moral support of family and friends, and his own determination. While his vision remains impaired, he says the way he now sees himself and approaches his life is clearer than before.
Thomas said, “I still have a long way to go, but two years ago, returning full time to high school like I have was only a vague possibility. Nor would have imagined I would raise over $40,000 for Children’s Hospital to thank them for saving my life. I try to keep in mind advice given to me from the father of a friend: I need to look forward to be positive, motivated and to work hard. I also need to remember to look back at those less fortunate to appreciate what I have, what I’ve been given and what I’ve accomplished. And finally, I need to look within to see how those experiences impacted me, taught me and have ultimately changed me…and to uncover the ever-evolving true me.”
Nobles’ next TEDx speaker, Sammi Janower ’19, also overcame staggering medical circumstances. Diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at age three, she experienced a childhood filled with grueling medical treatments and their effects. Now, she hopes to use the story of her cancer journey to inspire others and to raise money for research into less toxic and more effective treatments for brain tumors. Inspired by the confidence she gained through joining crew at Nobles, a sport where she could excel because of and not in spite of her “diminutive size,” Janower resolved not to let the effects of her cancer hold her back.
As part of that courageous decision, Janower rode 165 miles for the Pan-Mass Challenge with her father to help fund cancer research. During the ride, she said, she and the other riders were unified by their exhaustion, their ultimate goal and their cause. “With their encouragement, I overcame my physical limitations, pain and exhaustion and successfully made it to the finish.”
As a young cancer patient, Janower remembers, “I had been one of those kids—thanking the riders for supporting the Dana Farber, but with no thought of ever riding myself—now, I found myself proudly standing in the position of a rider. I was overcoming my overwhelming odds. I took control of my situation. I no longer let cancer or anything else tell me what to do.”
Janower challenged, “What has been holding you back? Everyone has obstacles to overcome. You, and you alone, have the power to push past the artificial boundaries you have set for yourself to help others and make the world a better place. With hard work, determination, and confidence in yourself, you can accomplish much more than you know.”
Learn more about TEDxBeaconStreet.