Caption: Junior Marco Juarez holds up a miniature version of a truck as a memento of his father. Photo: Instagram@paceacademy

On Nov. 5, English Teacher Robert Kaufman, senior Martin Andra-Thomas and juniors Kate Grice and Harper Auchincloss hosted Pace’s fourth-ever TEDx talk with the theme of “Do I Dare.” Based on T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the speeches dealt with themes of self-reflection and courage. “I resonated with the poem and Mr. Kaufman is a big fan as well, so we were both enthusiastic about making it our theme,” said Andra-Thomas. “This year’s TEDx was the best one we have had at Pace because students dared greatly to destigmatize talking about mental health and what makes them vulnerable, which requires laudable courage,” said Mr. Kaufman. 

Junior Marco Juarez was first up to speak. Juarez described his struggles with mental health after his dad’s death. “Mental health is not something to keep quiet,” said Juarez. “Everyone goes through challenges and should never think that asking for help makes you weak.” Despite his depression and regret over not cherishing his relationship with his father, he explained how therapy helped him heal and gave him the strength to share his story. “I want to dedicate my speech to my dad because his death was the reason I wanted to speak about mental health,” said Juarez. “Enjoy the time with loved ones and keep those memories forever.” 

The second speaker was senior Vivian Kohn. She described her struggles to balance her Jewish and American identities. In middle school, Kohn attended Davis Academy, the largest Reform Jewish Day School in the country, so she was thrust into a different world when she entered Pace as a freshman. Though she initially hides her Jewish identity for fear of being different, she comes to realize that “those differences make us who we are.” Kohn completely changes her perspective over the course of high school and now proudly accepts her Jewish identity. 

The third speaker was Boys Varsity Basketball coach Sharman White. In his speech, Mr. White details “what it takes to be a champion.” White shares his coaching journey from an assistant coach at a middle school to being Pace’s head coach. He describes how he learned lessons of character and culture and how continued success takes more than talent and hard work. White thanks his family for their continued support of his coaching career. 

The fourth speaker was senior Carly Cannon. Cannon details her love of dance and how she overcame the harmful ideas of body image placed upon her at a young age. She describes how she let Kurbo, a weight loss app for kids, control the types of foods she was eating. Eventually, she began doubting her appearance and temporarily quit dance. Cannon says it was her ballet teacher Cinnamon Dizon who inspired her to love the art of dance again. “I found the courage within the subject matter. Much of what I was speaking on is often kept under wraps and considered uncomfortable, but I knew that I wanted to put words to that insecure feeling that many of us experience and that certainly kept me going throughout the process,” said Cannon. 

The fifth speaker was eighth grader Gus Loomis. In his speech, Loomis details the struggles of moving to a new school and how he overcame other people’s perceptions of him. Loomis shared how his need to please his teammates and coaches in football began to bleed into his social life. He was losing who he was to please others. Through the help of his parents, Loomis found the courage to decide his own identity for himself. When the school play rolled around, Loomis decided he would join. “I can be an athlete and an artist.” 

The last speaker was junior Bea Boehner. Boehner details how music has helped her deal with her extreme case of OCD. When she was a child, Boehner’s OCD would compel her to create elaborate routines or even wash her hands until they were bleeding. As she grew older, the OCD changed from an obsession over germs to one about perfection. Though perfection is unobtainable, Boehner shared how songwriting provided relief in this endless chase. “Two people inspired me to write my speech. Taylor Swift, who is my idol, because she has never been afraid to speak up and speak out in regards to personal issues, inspired me to write it,” said Boehner. “And my mom, who is my ultimate inspiration, gave me the courage to speak it.” She shared that the most anyone can ask is to try their best. “I think the biggest takeaway from my speech is the three lessons I touched on at the end: “dare to craft your voice, dare to be undone and dare to get better,” said Boehner.

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