TEDxYouth@Lancaster took place June 17, 2017 at the Winter Center on the campus of Millersville University. The theme was Moving Forward. The event featured 13 speakers and 2 performers, who ranged in age from 13 to 21.

PICTURES: You can view pictures from the event by clicking here.

PROGRAM: To view the official program from our event, click here.

In addition to our talks and performances, our attendees experienced our Exhibition Hall.  Here is what it included:

* A demonstration of 3D Virtual Reality art by Goggleworks

* A demonstration of a Quantum Levitator by the North Museum

* A demonstration of liquid nitrogen by the North Museum

* The chance to play with a robotic Spheros ball, a gaming device that you control with your smartphone

* Participation in a drum circle by Livin' in the Rhythm

* Fun games and demonstrations showing that math is fun by Math with Confidence


View the LNP Lancaster Online article here regarding the inaugural TEDxYouth@LancasteR




Without the support of our partners, TEDxYouth@Lancaster could not take place.  Thank you to our partners for supporting our youth and supporting "ideas worth spreading!"




Elizabeth Raff is an innovative, passionate, and enthusiastic educator, who sparks excitement and creativity in her classroom. A 6th grade teacher in the Penn Manor School District, Elizabeth propels students to be lifelong learners by using unique classroom engagement strategies. She creates a model classroom with high expectations and a student driven culture where students are encouraged to ask tough questions and think outside of the box.  Learn more here.

When she is not in the classroom, Elizabeth develops comprehensive curriculum, leads energizing professional development workshops, and supports preservice teachers. An inspiring educator, Elizabeth’s classroom techniques are being utilized around the world and most recently gained the attention of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera. Elizabeth received her Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from Penn State University and continues to pursue research and writing opportunities. Elizabeth resides in Lancaster with her husband, Jeremy.


Brye Balla graduated from Pequea Valley High School in 2017.  He came across a study which found that after death, the human brain is still active for approximately seven minutes. This revelation changed his life. His unique and uplifting story is a lesson for us all.

Shortly after his talk, Brye went to Costa Rica with YWAM to do missions work. In high school, he was involved with marching band, the fall play, the spring musical, the concert choir, and the Chamber Singers. He served as the choir program president this past school year, and choreographed and assistant directed the middle school musical. He enjoys eating, hiking, traveling, singing, dancing, acting, playing piano, ukulele, and guitar, and hanging out with his friends (four-legged friends too!).


At the time of his talk, Akash Banerjee was a freshman at Warwick High School and was a part of their choir and band.  He also a has a passion for drama. Growing up in the rather conservative town of Lititz, he has encountered stereotypes and prejudice almost every day of his life.  However, Akash feels there is nothing wrong with stereotypes, if taken the right way.  His talk is a very interesting (and often humorous) perspective.

Akash practices Taekwon-do, a Korean martial art. He has a strong passion for public speaking, and is also an advocate for Muslim rights, especially on social media.


Shohini Banerjee was a senior at Warwick High School when she performed at TEDxYouth@Lancaster 2017.  She is an Indian classical dancer. She performed a dance called Nandi Padam.  She has been training in the traditional Bharatnatyam style since 2005, and graduated as a classical dancer in 2012 after vigorous training culminating in a two-hour solo performance. She continues to share her love of dance through teaching, choreographing, and performing. She also enjoys playing the flute, conducting scientific research, reading, and playing chess. She was a meticulous student in her studies and was in the top three in her class. In Fall of 2017, Shohini started attending Schreyer Honors College at Penn State for biomedical engineering and wants to become a better person everyday by adopting more altruistic ways of life.


At age 12 and just finishing 6th grade at Linglestown Middle School, Lauryn Chotiner was the youngest speaker at TEDxYouth@Lancaster 2017.  She is a passionate volunteer, although her passion for volunteering started at a much younger age. She is an advocate for volunteering and shared in her talk the many benefits, not only for people, but for the economy.  She began visiting elderly residents at a local nursing center as a toddler. In second grade, she donated her hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths to make wigs for cancer patients. In 4th-6th grades, she created and sold gift boxes to raise money for AFMDA, a red cross affiliate. She has worked in a soup kitchen, baked treats at Ronald McDonald house, and created crafts for hospitalized children through Caitlyn Smiles. She continues to be inspired by volunteers in her community. At school, she was an active runner on the Girls on the Run team. She enjoys playing piano and tennis, in which she has won bronze medals two years in a row at the Jr. Maccabi games. 


Annie Dickinson can hear colors and see sound!  Yes, you read that right.  She has a condition called synesthesia, which is a blending of the senses.  At the time of her talk, Annie was a sophomore at Lower Dauphin High School in Hummelstown and a member of the school orchestra and the Hershey Symphony. She has been fortunate to play in some unique events, including a Lincoln Center concert with the Hershey Symphony, the NAfME All-Eastern Convention, PMEA festivals, and alongside the Piano Guys at their concert in Hershey. She was also the pianist for her school jazz band and sang in her school chamber choir. Annie served as President of her school’s Tri-M chapter. She has also self-released an album entitled “Synesthesia” under the artist name “Annie Elise”. Focused on academics, Annie was also a part of her school’s honor societies and STEM team, which competed on the national level. In the future, Annie hopes to major in a music related field and continue to speak about synesthesia.

Do you wonder what it’s like to have synesthesia?  Annie helped to create a video that shows what she sees when she listens to a song she wrote, called "Sleep to Dream."  This song is on Annie's debut CD aptly named "Synesthesia."  When viewing the video, imagine that the black part would actually be your field of vision.


Drake Gooding finished Ephrata Senior High School 3 years ahead of schedule...at the age of 15! He spent much of his education (2nd through 8th grade) cyberschooling in order to graduate early. Drake is very interested in mechanical engineering, but plans to become a serial entrepreneur. His plan was to get right out of high school and into the business world. Drake believes that as a society, we tend to use age as an excuse to hold ourselves back, and he would like to change this.


At the time of her talk, Sarah was a rising senior at Franklin & Marshall College in her hometown of Lancaster.  Sarah's interests in how medicine intersects with policy and access to health care drew her to pursue a Public Health major. Having been highly involved with organizing and serving as a counselor at Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) retreats, Sarah was eager to help strengthen the Muslim community at F&M by joining the Muslim Students Association, where she is currently president. Sarah tutors McCaskey middle and high schoolers through the Squash ACES program at the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. In the summer of 2017, Sarah got to spend some time in Jordan, where she worked with Helping Hands for Relief and Development to provide aid to the Syrian and Palestinian refugees seeking asylum. Sarah's talk provides insight into what youth can do in their own town to help alleviate the global refugee crisis.


Elaina Kreider was an eighth grade student in the Solanco School District at the time of her talk.  Elaina believes God created the universe, but went looking for proof.  She spoke about her interesting journey into fact-checking information we just assume to be true.   Elaina is the eldest of five siblings, two of whom are adopted from China and Bulgaria. Elaina enjoys spending time with her family as well reading, writing, dancing, horseback riding, swimming, and traveling. She has been to China, Ireland and France and hopes to add more countries to her list in years to come. At school, she's been involved in NJHS, the gifted program, and has competed in Odyssey of the Mind and Math 24 competitions.  Elaina is considering a profession in the teaching field.


Sanjith was an eighth grade student in the Kingsview Middle School in Germantown, MD at the time of his TEDxYouth@Lancaster performance. Sanjith always believes that there is lot of commonalities between Indian classical and Western music. He has been learning Indian classical music from Mr. Kamalakiran Vinjamuri (George Mason University student) in violin since 2010 and has won many awards in prestigious music festivals. Sanjith always enjoys accompanying his teacher at violin concerts both in the US as well as in India. He performed a quick raga elaboration with a short song (krithi) followed by an on the spot creation of various mathematical musical patterns and musical jingles called kalpana swaras.


Palak Patel, the youngest of three, was born in New Jersey and moved to Lancaster when she was eight. At the time of her talk, she was an upcoming senior at Conestoga Valley High School where she was the Vice President of National Honors Society and an officer in Students Against Destructive Decisions. Palak has been involved in her school through Student Council, Link Crew Leadership, Math League, and more. She has a passion for tutoring students, volunteering at North Museum of Nature and Science, and promoting positive mental health. When she’s not volunteering or doing things with her school, she can usually be found doing yoga, playing badminton, or eating way too much cheese. Palak has been to England, Scotland, Ireland, India, and she hopes that the list will continue! Her academic interests lie in math and science and she hopes to pursue biomedical engineering in the future.


Sadie Penn is an advocate of suicide prevention.  She feels it's time to talk about the struggle and get it out in the open.  She is passionate about the topic as she is a survivor of the struggle.  Sadie graduated from Penn Manor High School. She is planning on studying psychology and working with youth. She’s passionate about educating others on the importance of suicide awareness and positive mental health. Sadie enjoys writing, going for hikes, and hearing others’ stories.


When she gave her talk, Alexa Schwa was just 16 and a Junior at Central Dauphin High School, where she was a 3 year varsity tennis player. Alexa was Vice-President of the Junior class and Regional Vice-President of BBYO, a Youth Leadership organization.  A distinguished honors student, Alexa truly prides herself on her volunteer work at many different organizations.  Alexa is a co-founder of the MAST STEM Center in Harrisburg City Schools.  She has worked with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to open up 4 of these centers as of the time of her talk with plans to open a minimum of 9 more around the country!  Because of her work with bringing top education to at risk students, Alexa was the first Youth recipient ever of the Youth in Philanthropy award from the Foundation for Enhancing Communities presented by the previous Secretary of Education. Family, Friends, Sports and Community are what Alexa calls her “passion”.  Alexa gave a tandem talk with her brother, Sammy.


Sammy Schwab was only 14 and a Freshman at Central Dauphin High School when he gave his talk. Sammy is an avid sports fan and created his own Sports show, Sammy’s Sports Kids Network. Due to the success of his show, he has been asked to announce minor league sporting events, interview Hall of Fame athletes, and been interviewed on Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS, including a feature on Super Bowl Sunday. His shows have had over 1 million views in total, and have been shared by famous athletes. Sammy gave a class lecture to 48 business students at Dickinson College on “Following your Passion.”  Along with his sisters Madison and Alexa, he helped co-create the MAST STEM center in Harrisburg City Schools. In addition to playing many sports, he loves volunteering and tutoring, and raised the most money over a 2 year period for the Humane Society in their Polar Plunge fundraiser.  Sammy gave a tandem talk with his sister, Alexa.


Brennan Stark is a graduate of Archmere Academy in Wilmington, Delaware as well as the CEO of Y Innovations, a nonprofit organization that uses natural building techniques to create affordable and environmentally-friendly housing for homeless and low-income citizens in the Delaware area. Brennan has been featured in several publications for his work with Y Innovations, including most recently, USA TODAY. Brennan traveled to Denmark as part of the 2017 UNLEASH Innovation Lab in order to pitch his work in sustainable development to government officials and international investors. Brennan is also passionate about education and renewable energy, working on a venture to promote and expand options for young people after graduating high school. In his free time, Brennan enjoys reading, backpacking in the woods, and spending time with his loving family and his girlfriend, Maureen. Brennan plans to study Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation with a focus in computer science at the University of Delaware.


Marissa Witmer is an incredibly impressive young woman.  A graduate of Solanco High School where she served as Class President and President of Spanish Honors Society, Marissa is just 18 years old.  She had the honor of going to the 2016 International Science and Engineering Fair as a Finalist for her project “Reducing the Risk of Alzheimer’s in Type II Diabetes Patients.”  Her research and findings were the subject of her talk at TEDxYouth@Lancaster.

Marissa continues her research at Hershey Medical Center and works as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for Lancaster EMS. Marissa entered Franklin & Marshall College in the Fall of 2017, and plans on eventually attending medical school to become a surgeon. Marissa finds joy in challenging herself to make meaningful change and in inspiring others to do so.


Thanks to Rachel Collison, TEDxYouth@Lancaster’s student photographer and videographer for the inaugural TEDxYouth@Lancaster.  A student at Penn Manor High School (class of 2020), she has been a member of her school’s Quiz Bowl team, Model United Nations club, and GreyZone, a club for students in the gifted program. An artist, a writer, and a poet, Rachel is also very passionate about photography, videography, and film.

She volunteered to document the behind-the-scenes aspects of the event due to her interest in TED Talks and her desire to gain more experience with photography and video. At the dress rehearsal and on the event day, she captured photos and videos of the speakers, exhibits, and backstage action. She hopes to continue pursuing her interests in film, photography, and art and become more involved in local community events.