PLATTSBURGH — 'Hidden Among Us.'

That's the theme of TEDxYouth@PHS, a first-of-its-kind event in this area which will take place Saturday, Nov. 2, at Plattsburgh High School.

Selection of the theme came out of conversations between PHS seniors Abaigael Lebrun and Garrett Lemza, two of the event organizers.

When the school first got the license to hold the event, the TED organization was focused on what the area had to offer, Lebrun explained.

“They really wanted us to highlight that, so we were trying to pick something that really had the essence of this area.

“The idea of 'Hidden Among Us' is that you could walk by someone on the street and you would never know that they have a life that’s as complex, as interesting as your own."


Over the last year, Lebrun and Lemza have worked with teachers Rosemary Manchester, Sonal Patel-Dame and Susan Fresn; school counselor Rory LaPage; nurse Cheryl Maggy; and PHS Principal Glenn Hurlock to put the event together.

The nearest similar events were held at St. Lawrence University and the University of Vermont, Manchester said.

The first half of TEDxYouth@PHS — which the seniors will co-host — will feature 11 speakers who must adhere to six- to 18-minute timeframes for their talks, per TED guidelines.

The committee recently finalized the speaker list, which will include Plattsburgh High School teachers Patrick Towey, Louis Piccirillo and Kate Relation; recent PHS graduates Ryan Flora and Katharine Heintz; current PHS student Riley Savastano; recent SUNY Plattsburgh graduates and Shine On program participants Imani Burroughs and Danielle Johnson King; NBC5 anchor and PHS parent Stephanie Gorin; PHS alum Curtiss Hemm, chef/owner of The Carriage House Cooking School; and PHS alum Tom McNichols, Grammy-nominated vocalist.

“Needless to say, we are excited by our finalized panel and that each represent our community in dynamic ways,” Manchester said.

The event's workshops — which comprise the second half of the event — will cater to the targeted demographic of 11-to-18-year-olds.

Those will include speaker panel discussions, student-run activities and successful student programs in the PHS community.

“We’re trying to base it upon all of the wonderful things that PHS has to offer,” Patel-Dame said, such as the Science Olympiad Team, music department and drama club.


TED — "a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks," according to its website — puts forth many rules and regulations for its TEDxYouth events.

Manchester was most surprised by the required audience size, which cannot exceed 100 unless organizers have attended a TED conference.

The idea to obtain a TEDxYouth license came out of Manchester's public speaking class, where she has her students do TED-like talks for final projects.

One of those students, Class of 2018 graduate Zoya Qudsi, brought up to Manchester that the school could get a TEDx license for free.

“So, in my mind, this was really an extension of that public speaking final project,” Manchester said.


TED assumes ownership of TEDx and TEDxYouth event talks, which must be recorded, edited and uploaded.

The school has contracted with local photographer Damian Battinelli to ensure that task is completed in a professional, high-quality manner, Manchester said.

In order to cover expenses, the group has had to rely on corporate donations and sponsorships, since TED does not allow some typical fundraisers like bottle drives.

Current sponsors include McSweeney Orthodontics, Agency Insurance Brokers Inc., Northern Insuring, Bluff Point Golf Resort, Plattsburgh Pediatrics and UFirst Federal Credit Union, Patel-Dame said.

Manchester added that some organizations within the school community have also been incredibly generous, such as the PHS Student Association and Community School Organization.

Technology teacher Wendy DeMane designed the event logo and science teacher Corey Mousseau will laser cut letters for the stage.

“I’m happy to be a part of this to see our school community coming together to produce and put on this event,” Fresn said.

“We’re not just teachers, we’re not just students. Hidden among those roles are these skills and talents and gifts that are being shared.”


Lemza and Lebrun have played key roles in planning TEDxYouth@PHS over the last year, helping the adult members of the committee understand the perspective of 11-to-18-year-olds.

For example, the two have brought up different social media platforms the teachers might not have thought would be popular among students and provided feedback on potential speakers, timeframes and topics.

“I think often people might have the idea that we’re adults and we’re seasoned and we know better about things,” LaPage said.

“But our youth have just as much to be able to offer us."

This event is a big deal, Fresn said.

“We’re a small, rural high school and TED looked at us and said, 'Yeah, I want to know more about who you people are.' That’s really incredible.” 


Email Cara Chapman:

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman


Only 100 tickets will be available for the TEDxYouth@PHS event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.

PHS and Stafford Middle School students can now purchase tickets at PHS, and tickets go on sale to the general public Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Interested parties should email Rosemary Manchester at

Pricing is $10 for middle and high school students and $15 for adults.

Anyone interested in making a donation or becoming a sponsor should contact Sonal Patel-Dame by Wednesday, October 16 at

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