Students sat in complete silence, staring intently at senior Sara DeLuca as she spoke to them in Brewster High School’s ILC. There was no fidgeting or quiet whispering. She held their undivided attention as she gave a deeply personal TED Talk.
Her talk, “Society’s Secret Encouragement of Mental Illness,” was part of a Best of Senior TED Talks conference created by English teacher Robert LoAlbo. DeLuca explored how social media contributes to depression and eating disorders and, during her talk, revealed that she has struggled with some of the issues she spoke about.
“I didn’t think it was going to be hard to talk about,” DeLuca said with a smile. “But then I got up the first time to do it and I realized that I really had to tell everyone that I suffer from so many things.” She wondered if students would be able to relate or if they would think she was strange. After a little bit of thought, she realized she could not be the only one.
“When I looked at all of the kids’ faces while I was speaking, they were completely zoned in. I felt like they were feeling what I felt at the same time,” DeLuca said. “I think it’s a topic that a lot of people can relate to, so it really influenced them. People even came up to me after the talk.”
Not all of the talks were as personal as DeLuca’s, but they were all incredibly thoughtful.
“I listened to all my seniors,” LoAlbo said. “These were the best.”
In addition to DeLuca, Sierra Cervantes, Chloe Charles, Jessica Hamel, Tyler Maloney, Caitlin Otto, Mollie Toscano, and Gavin Winkler also shared their talks with their peers. Topics ranged from déjà vu, self-love, disabilities, and premature birth to environmentalism, America, and politics.
“I’ve never done it on a grand scale like this,” LoAlbo said of the talks. For two full periods, students could choose from three talks that were happening simultaneously in the ILC, the DaVinci lab, and the iTheater. “I’ve always had it in my brain to do it like this, but I haven’t been able to work out the logistics until this year. It’s good. They’re getting a lot out of it.”
When asked what she hoped her peers took away from her talk, DeLuca said, “Love yourself. What other people say about you, what society says about you doesn’t determine your worth in this world.”