It’s not often that we get the opportunity to showcase our talent on the global stage but that changed last night when SMGS Year 11 student, Tolina Davis, was invited to speak at the TEDx event in Canberra. Tolina delivered an amazing talk, showing us that the sky is not the limit. We sat down with Tolina to get an insight into the event:

Q: Being asked to speak at TEDx is an amazing opportunity. How did it come about?

“An email was sent out last term about the opportunity and I’ve always been a TED fan so I thought why not see what it’s really about. So I sent an email back and got in touch with some teachers that where happy to support me and we sent off the application the next day. I then got an email 3 days ago saying that I’d gotten in.”

Q: What was the topic of your talk?

“I titled my speech “The skies are no longer your limits” and it was about how by saying “The sky IS your limit” we’re imposing a roof over people’s potential. The essence and message was to simply empower, support and encourage those around you to do what makes them happy, without using manipulative techniques. To really bring the community together.”

Q: How did you prepare?

“I found out only two nights before the event that I had been selected, so I wasn’t 100% prepared. I had my ideas and concepts and didn’t want to rely too heavily on palm cards or a note sheet because that isn’t “true TED style”. I really just tried to put as much passion into it as I could, If I missed a line or part of my speech I didn’t treat it as a big deal. We only had 3-5 minutes to present (which is a very short time for this kind of thing) but I thought it was enough time to express wholeheartedly all the passion that you have without burning out yourself or boring the audience.”

Q: How did you calm your nerves?

“I talked to the other speakers, it wasn’t a competition like the ones I’m usually involved with at school – where we’re all trying to one-up each other, everyone was just so passionate and comfortable. There wasn’t a pressure to ‘win’ and presenting in front of a crowd that isn’t judging you is euphoric. Everyone was there to just listen, and knowing that they were there to simply hear what you had to say was calming.”

Q: What are you most proud of about the experience/ what was the best part?

“I got approached by quite a few people I didn’t know afterwards that showered me in compliments, which really helped in making me feel proud of myself. Radio stations, University ambassadors and representors, people from ‘empowerment camps’ and of course the other speakers, I spoke to so many people that lived totally different lives and had completely different influences but shared the same passion. I thought that was just amazing. 

Overall it was a hugely rewarding night.”

Q: What was the hardest part?

“There was a point where I was speaking and my mind jumped out of what I was focusing on and I just though “I can hear myself sounding scared!” I found snapping out of that negative / fearful mindset really hard, but once I was out of that I felt so much better and could convey my passion in a much more powerful way, I gained faith in what I was saying.”

Q: Do you have any advice for other students who would like to do something similar?

“Look around, don’t wait to be invited. The TEDx community is so, so supportive. You don’t necessarily have to do TEDx either, I started off with debating in year 8 and then started doing school speaking competitions, I took on mock trials this year and then spoke at Lions Youth of the Year and won before I got to TEDx. Write lots of different speeches in lots of different styles, make them personal, a passion you have faith in, really get out there an experience it. Don’t write speeches because they’ll be ‘marked,’ Write speeches because you’re proud of what you have to say.”

Q: Are there any specific teachers or role models that helped you with this endeavour?

“My Principle Andrew Bell originally alerted me to the event and then one of the student supporters Mrs. Beth Taylor helped me sign up, and my English teacher Mrs. Anne Jones helped me refine my speech and, along with my parents has been encouraging me to speak for years. Really the whole community has supported me, the responses from this event have just been so lovely and encouraging.”

Deputy Principal and Director of Curriculum & Academic Development, Dr Michael Barton, was obviously impressed with Tolina’s achievement, “It’s fantastic to see such a passionate and articulate young lady take her views to a global stage. At SMGS we encourage our students to challenge their worldview on a variety of issues and to contribute to the knowledge and opinion basis of the wider society”

Check out some short excepts from Tolina’s talk.

With support and encouragement, a community can influence and empower an individual to make their personal sky limitless.

As a society we often use the threat of disappointment as motivation. This damaging tool is used to instill fear in place of inspiration and discourages a reason to care, especially in younger generations. And while that is a commonly accepted practice, there are far better ways to empower people to achieve.

Every single thing you do has a result. So if you ask the question, take that opportunity, or sit that test, there will be a result, and no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ that result may be, the fact that you have a result means that you have tried. Having a result, is a reason to be proud.