Six months ago, Marrec Selous, a junior at The Lycée Français de New York and a TED-Ed Club Member, took to the stage in his school auditorium and delivered a presentation on the parallels between science fiction and real life for an audience of twenty of his fellow TED-Ed Club members, teachers and administrators. He didn’t know it at the time, but he would soon be presenting the same talk onstage at TEDYouth in front of hundreds of students from across New York City and the tri-state area, as well as the numerous classrooms around the world that tuned into the webcast. We caught up with Marrec to talk about his surprising journey to the TED stage.
Congratulations on having spoken at TEDYouth! Tell me a little about what your talk covered.
Basically, my talk compared science fiction to reality. I studied a famous movie, a few famous writers and a famous book (all science fiction) and I compared the predictions that those authors and movies made to what actually happened in real life. In doing this, I saw trends which I thought highlighted a potentially worrying change in our society.
How did you get interested in that topic?
Science fiction has always been a passion of mine. I liked science quite a lot in school, but science can be a bit rigid sometimes and there’s this creative, imaginative side to science fiction. It’s like fantasy, but rooted in the real world, so I can imagine things that could be possible in the future.
How did you get involved with the TED-Ed Club at your school?
Two brilliant teachers at my school decided to start a TED-Ed Club and they put posters around the school advertising it. I had already heard about TED previously because I like watching TED Talks online so I thought, “Hmm, this looks like a nice opportunity.”
I got to meet really interesting people and every club meeting was a moment to share and discuss ideas. The best part was when everybody understood what was being talked about and everyone was adding on to each other’s ideas — it just brought a richness and a depth to the conversation that was so nice. As a result, we really got to learn about each other and know each other better.
And how did you end up at TEDYouth?
The TED-Ed staff watched my talk and then it kind of went from there without me knowing! My talk got selected eventually to be part of TEDYouth and then one day I was contacted. I was surprised, I didn’t expect it, I just opened my Inbox and “BAM! I’m going to TEDYouth!”
How did it feel to be on the TEDYouth stage?
Incredible. I do theater, and I feel pretty comfortable speaking in a public environment, but just before the talk I was feeling really nervous and I was shaking because I realized how big this was. I mean, it was being live streamed and everything, and it had the TED logo onstage, so it was a little bit stressful. But then I went up there, and it was just amazing. There was just so much positive energy; it really helped me concentrate and I really felt great on that stage, like everyone valued what I had to say.
How did you prepare?
First of all, I had to adapt the talk to fit in a six-minute format and make it more concise. I had a few video conferences with [TED's Associate Content Producer] Nick Weinberg, who really helped me with the talk. I had really good help from the TED team. Then, I had to learn the actual talk. So brushing my teeth in the morning, I would think about the talk. Walking to school in the morning, I would think about the talk. And on the subway, on the way to rehearsal I would just think about the talk and think it over in my head.
What was your biggest takeaway from the whole experience?
That’s a hard question. There were several things. Well, first of all, I’ve recently been struggling a little bit because I haven’t been so sure about what I care about and what I’m interested in. I’ve been restricting myself to the subjects at school and thinking, “Mmm, well, you know I’m not so much interested in what I study at school any more, does that mean I’m not interested in anything?” And when I came to TEDYouth, I realized that there was just such a wide variety of things to learn about and so many ideas and so many things to think about that I thought, “No, you know, just because I’ve lost a little bit of interest in things at school doesn’t mean that I’m less curious about what’s going on in the world.”
The other, maybe more significant thing, is that I’m in junior year and I’m going to have to apply for college soon and I don’t know which major to choose. I don’t know what to do and for a long time I’ve been thinking my choice is going to define who I am. And I think coming to TEDYouth, I realized that there were some people who had a career and did separate things on the side and there were so many different things to explore and so many different careers that just one major choice in my undergraduate degree wouldn’t change anything. And I spoke with [TED's Content Director] Kelly [Stoetzel] and she told me that she had two careers before she even came to TED and that I shouldn’t worry about that. I think coming to TEDYouth really showed me that you could still be interested in so many different things even if you had one career choice and it really sparked my interest again.
Look for Marrec’s talk to premiere on the TED-Ed blog in the coming weeks.
Interested in starting a TED-Ed Club at your school? Click here to apply. »