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B-N Teen’s Story Of Perseverance Featured On TEDxNormal

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TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman.

While the past year has been a tough one for nearly everybody, a 14-year-old local high school student's story of perseverance has earned her a place on the TEDxNormal 2021 virtual stage.

Isha Gollapudi is the youngest among the speakers who will be speaking at Saturday’s event.

“I think it's really great because I am so young, you don't generally get to see a child's point of view,” said Gollapudi, a freshman at Normal Community High School. “You always see all these philosophers’ points of view and perspectives on pieces and what they mean. So seeing a younger person's point of view might open people's eyes to different ways of looking at things, is what I'm hoping people get out of it.”

Isha Gollapudi
Isha Gollapudi

Gollapudi submitted a video she had previously recorded to the TEDxNormal Organizing Committee.  

“Each of our 2021 speakers brings their own story of unintended knowledge to the stage,” said Kate Browne, chairperson of the TEDxNormal Organizing Committee. “Those stories will inspire us all to realize that as we move forward into 2021, still in crisis mode, we can embrace the complexity of our shared human experiences. We can feel deep pain and ecstatic joy, fear the unknown, and sink into safety. We can survive and thrive. We can seek knowledge and we can learn from unintended consequences.” 

Gollapudi said her talk is centered around how we perceive art and how art affects society and how different people view it in different ways

“I chose to do arts because there's so many different things you can learn from art in itself,” said Gollapudi. “You have the stories and all the things people before us have learned. And we learned about their trials and tribulations and everything they've done in their past. And we can use those lessons and apply it to our life.”

Gollapudi said you definitely can see perseverance and hope through art. 

“Vincent van Gogh's painting ‘Starry Night’ was painted while he was in the hospital. So it does show a lot of hope and new beginnings,” said Gollapudi. “You can learn about hope and perseverance, but you can also learn about history if we're talking about ‘The Third of May 1808’ by Francisco Goya. You definitely learn about what it was like, and you get to see a different perspective of the war itself.”

What prompted Gollapudi to send her video to the committee? 

“I think this year has been so crazy for everyone. No doubt about it,” said Gollapudi. “Art has always been something that sort of grounded me. I've been doing it for essentially my whole life.”

Gollapudi has been creating art since preschool and art has always been there for her.

“To be able to talk about something that affects me, that's been keeping me stable throughout all of COVID. I think if someone can find something like art for them, whether it be reading or writing, that'll really help them out because art is what helps me. I wanted to talk about what helps me and hopefully it'll inspire people to talk more about what helps them,” said Gollapudi.

Gollapudi has been working on one specific painting since the start of the pandemic. 

“I have this one with the girl in the red dress. I feel like we don't see a lot of different cultures in what's considered the fine arts,” said Gollapudi. “I think it's very important that we see things that society doesn't consider beautiful.”

The painting itself depicts a girl who has a crooked nose, and then nothing about her is quite as perfect. 

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“I think it's important to embrace our flaws and embrace our culture and who we are,” said Gollapudi.

The painting is called "Santhi,” which means peace in Hindi. It's 36x24 oils on canvas.

Gollapudi teased her talk will have a running metaphor, comparing water to how we don't quite know everything under the surface level.

“It's like going on a boat. I would describe it like an adventure,” said Gollapudi.

Each speaker will have individual times to talk. If there is time left over, attendees may ask the speakers questions. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where “x” means the event is independently organized.

There are no tickets and no cost to attend TEDxNormal 2021, but a link to the event is required.

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