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TEDxEl Paso unites the community’s brightest minds

Margaret Cataldi
Kiyohsi Ito, sixth grader at Michael E. Fossum Middle School in McAllen, Texas presents his talk, “A Challenge to Be Thankful.”

“The New Now” was the theme of TEDxElPaso’s annual conference, where local speakers aimed to inspire people to “make a dent in the universe and leave (their) own unique footprint,” said event curator Kassi Foster.   

The conference was held Saturday, Oct. 12, at the El Paso Museum of Art.  

With more than 300 in attendance, people from different areas of the city were brought together to make new connections and share ideas.   

“We wanted to bring people together who basically may not have met otherwise,”  Foster said.   

The event featured speakers primarily from the El Paso community. Among them was Ahsan Choudhuri, UTEP’s associate vice president for strategic initiatives and a professor of mechanical engineering at UTEP, who presented his talk titled “Connecting Research Excellence with Student Success: A Quest to Eliminate Inequality in Higher Education.”   

In his talk, Choudhri discussed the lack of jobs and opportunities that many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students face upon graduation.   

“Most young people from our community, especially students with the STEM discipline, are not likely to stay in El Paso because they don’t have jobs here,” Choudhri said.   

He stressed the importance of expanding a pipeline of high-end jobs and opportunities in the city so graduates can remain in the community.   

Another notable speaker was Cesar J. Blanco, state representative for Texas’ house district 76, who gave a heartfelt talk on the El Paso Walmart mass shooting and advised how the community should act moving forward.   

“I was looking forward to Cesar Blanco’s talk,” said attendee Victor Reta, an employee for the city of Socorro. “Since I work in municipal government and have worked at his office regularly, to hear his speech about ‘El Paso Strong’ and community initiatives on gun violence was really important.”  

Reta also expressed the ample amount of resources that TEDxEl Paso provides to someone in his field of work.   

“Since I work for the community and for a government agency, we tend to go to community events like these to learn more about trending topics, community initiatives and campaigns and to also get inspiration for some of our events,” Reta said.   

Two young El Paso students were also given the opportunity to give a TED talk.   

Mia Milliorn, a sixth grader at MacArthur Intermediate School, spoke about her experiences dealing with cerebral palsy in her talk “UFO-AFL.”   

Lajward Zahra, a ninth grader at the El Paso Independent School District’s Young Women’s STEAM Research & Preparatory Academy, gave an informative talk titled “Third Wave Feminism and Why It’s Necessary.”   

Lauren Cason, Meow Wolf’s creative director of interactive, spoke about the diversity of video games with her talk titled “Building Beautiful Worlds with Videogames.”   

“I wanted people to understand that video games can be beautiful things,” Cason said. “They can be positive and impactful for so many people. I wanted to open people up to different views that they may not have seen before in this particular media.”  

Cason also shared how her experience giving a TED Talk furthered her journey of self-discovery.  

“I think every time you speak, you have to come up with a hypothesis,” Cason said. “Then you have to get behind it and you learn about yourself by coalescing your thoughts in that way.” 

Margaret Cataldi may be reached at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Margaret Cataldi
Margaret Cataldi is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in Multimedia Journalism and minoring in Philosophy. She is the Multimedia Editor at the Prospector where she oversees the creation of video content. She also produces the Prospector Podcast, a bi-weekly show that covers current events affecting the student body and the broader borderland community. Margaret enjoys investigating current events in news, politics and entertainment and analyzing how these topics intersect and shape society as a whole. After graduation, she plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master's degree in Sociology.
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TEDxEl Paso unites the community’s brightest minds