TedxTeen: Discovering Your Passion (Part 2 of 3)

April 10th, 2013

A few weeks ago, the Business Matters team had the incredible opportunity to meet the speakers of this year’s TedxTeen conference, which was held in New York City. Twelve outstanding youth shared their inspiring stories of hardships, ingenuity, and ultimately, success. This week is the second part of our three week series on the TedxTeen speakers.


All of our guests this week should be considered very lucky. They all discovered their passions at a very young age, inspiring them to create inventions, organizations, and products that help the community around them. Caine Monroy was only 9 years old when he built his own arcade out of cardboard boxes and scotch tape in his dad’s auto-part store. A documentary filmmaker released a short video about him which instantly went viral last spring. His passion for building and engineering inspired him to create the Imagination Foundation which provides creative opportunities to other kids like him in East L.A. Dylan Vecchione, another West Coast kid, found his love of the oceans exploring coral reefs in Hawaii. He developed a website that allows users from all over the world to view and experiment on panoramic coral reef pictures and data, allowing for all citizens to explore new ideas to save our oceans. Kelvin Doe, all the way from Sierra Leone, created the first radio station in his community under the name DJ Focus. As an engineering prodigy, Kelvin has not only inspired and helped members back home, but students at MIT and Harvard as well. On the tropic island of Hawaii, Kuha’o Case is an incredible pianist with a surprising characteristic – he is blind. Self-taught, Kuha’o inspires by action, demonstrating his superior piano skills and great heart through music. Lastly, Tallia Storm, the luckiest girl in Scotland, took a risky chance and it paid off. Asked to open his concert by Sir Elton John himself, Tallia proves that opportunities only work if you give them a little push. This week’s speakers are all young, ranging from 10 to 17 years old, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as optimistic, successful, and hard-working as any adult. They discovered their passions early and made their dreams come true.

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Dylan Vecchione

dylan vecchioneDylan Vecchione has created something that he dubs, “like Google Street View, but for the oceans.” Dylan’s organization, Reef Quest, provides volunteers from around the world the chance to explore and experiment with virtual reefs. From over thousands of pictures that Dylan took himself, visitors to the Reef Quest site can see a panoramic view of a reef in Kahekili, Maui, among others. He promotes citizen science, a term that means any one can become a scientist, without all the training, simply by questioning and experimenting. By creating a system that is completely virtual, volunteers from across the globe can access the system and perform surveys of the reefs. It is Dylan’s hope that his project will not only raise awareness for the oceans, but provide answers to scientists who are studying the possibility of coral reef collapse. Currently, Dylan is creating a textbook that will sync with the virtual reefs online while doing experiments in the classroom.

To learn more about Reef Quest, check out their entire website and follow them on Twitter @ReefQuestOrg. To watch Dylan’s TedxTeen talk, click here.

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Caine Monroy

caine monroyYou may remember seeing a video, about a year ago, all about a 9 year old boy who built an arcade in his dad’s auto-part store. Well, that kid is now 10 years old, and was invited to speak at the TedxTeen conference. Caine Monroy used old boxes and scotch tape to create all sorts of arcade games, from the Claw to Foosball, in the back of his dad’s store in Los Angeles. He charged customers $2 for a month-long Fun Pass. That was his plan, anyway. All summer vacation went by and he had no visitors, until a documentary filmmaker, Nirvan Mullick, stopped by. Nirvan was inspired and eventually made a ten minute documentary on Caine and his arcade, which quickly went viral last spring. Since then, Caine has launched a scholarship fund to raise $250,000 for his college tuition, which is being matched dollar-for-dollar by the Goldhirsh Foundation to create the Imagination Foundation to inspire more kids like Caine. He is also currently in the running for the LA2050 Grant to foster creativity in the Los Angeles school systems. Caine speaks to the dreamer in us all, reminding us to never let our optimism wane.

To learn all about Caine’s story, click here. To donate to Caine’s scholarship/Imagination Foundation, click here. Also, please votefor Caine to win the LA2050 grant! (Voting ends April 17th, 2013). To watch Caine’s TedxTeen talk, click here. And, as always, don’t forget to follow Caine on Twitter for more updates: @CainesArcade.

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Kelvin Doe

kelvin doeNo one believes more strongly in the idea that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure than Kelvin Doe. Growing up in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Kelvin found broken electronic parts in garbage cans and rebuilt them into batteries, generators, and radios. With no guidance or manual, Kelvin simply had a knack for putting things together. He has provided lighting to homes in his village from soda, acid, metal, and tape. Kelvin even manages his own radio station, which he hosts under the name DJ Focus. This channel provides music, news, and an outlet for his community to discuss upcoming events and issues. Kelvin, often cited as an engineering prodigy, is the youngest person to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner Program” at MIT at 16 years old. He’s also spoken to students at Harvard, often five or ten years his senior. Kelvin’s incredible gift has generated so much positivity in his own surroundings and he continues to share his insight with the TedxTeen attendees, encouraging individual development and local contribution. Overall, he believes that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, because that is what makes us human.

To donate and learn more about Kelvin, check out Innovate Salone, an organization that empowers the youth of Sierra Leone. To watch Kelvin’s full TedxTeen talk, click here.

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Kuha’o Case

kuhao caseKuha’o Case is an exceptional piano player with a quality you’d never expect – he is blind. Growing up on the big island of Hawaii, he taught himself how to play piano without anyone ever showing him what keys were which note. He simply heard the sound they created and felt it within him. Kuha’o has the incredible talent of hearing a song once or twice and being able to play it back, adding his own style to the melody. At the TedxTeen conference, attendees were asked to vote for which song they wanted to hear, and Kuha’o was only told the winner once he was on stage about to perform. (Check out his stunning performance). Last summer, Kuha’o created a Kickstarter project aimed at raising money to produce his first CD and purchase his own piano. It was successful and another project is in the works for this summer and his second CD. Kuha’o is an inspiration to everyone, preaching that only you can define your limits and anything is possible if you just believe.

Check out his full TedxTeen talk here and subscribe to his Youtube channel for more videos of Kuha’o’s music.

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Tallia Storm

tallia stormAs Kelly Carmichael said, “Tallia Storm is taking the world by storm!” During a vacation to Hawaii with her family, Scottish jazz singer Tallia Storm ran into David Furnish, Sir Elton John’s partner, at breakfast. Always prepared, Tallia took a chance that many would be too scared to take, and asked him to pass along her demo. The next day, she received a phone call from Sir Elton John himself, asking Tallia to open his show in Scotland. Result! Since then, Tallia’s world has been turned upside down. She has performed at the Teen Choice Awards after party, attended fashion week, and is even a guest blogger for Huffington Post. (Read Tallia’s take on TedxTeen). In her speech, Tallia asks, “If you met the hero of your thing, would you be prepared?” pushing us all to take leaps of faith in our everyday lives. You never know what could happen.

To watch Tallia’s full speech, click here. Also, don’t forget to check out her TedxTeen performance too.  For more information and to hear some of her music, check out Tallia’s website and follow her on Twitter @Tallia_Storm.

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All of our interviews would not have been possible without the incredible work of the We Are Family Foundation. We thank them for their generosity and giving us hope for a brighter future.


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