Agoura High student charges ahead with motivational, TED-like talks



SETTING THE BAR HIGH—At top, teacher Ryan Gleason speaks at the Jan. 5 Charger Talks at Agoura High School. Above, teacher Michael Robbins on stage during the conference.

SETTING THE BAR HIGH—At top, teacher Ryan Gleason speaks at the Jan. 5 Charger Talks at Agoura High School. Above, teacher Michael Robbins on stage during the conference.

Move over TED.

Agoura High School senior Maya Harris is charging forward with her own concept inspired by the popular TED Talks conferences and online videos.

Taking TED’s mantra of “ideas worth spreading” to heart, 17-year-old Maya organized Agoura High’s first Charger Talks conference on Jan. 5 in the school’s performing arts and education center.

More than 120 people showed up to hear 11 speakers—a mix of students and adult experts—discuss topics ranging from technology’s impact on education, the pros and cons of America’s two-party political system and the importance of a heritage language.

Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers

Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers

Maya said she wanted to give students an opportunity to share their passions.

“In my time at Agoura (high school), I’ve met all these interesting people with stories to share,” Maya said. “I know people who have passions but they don’t get to use them in their jobs or their daily lives. I thought this could be a really cool outlet for them to share their interests with an audience.”

Maya presented the idea to the student council over the summer, and once it was approved she started recruiting speakers. She ended up with a mix that included students, teachers, an Agoura High coach and a member of the Las Virgenes Unified School District.

INSPIRING—Tyler Freeman is a speaker at the Charger Talks. BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers

INSPIRING—Tyler Freeman is a speaker at the Charger Talks. BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers

Agoura High history teacher Jason Busby spoke about the effect technology has had on the classroom. An educator since the ’90s, Busby addressed the advent of cellphones and Google near the start of the 21st century and the questions those tech advances have raised.

“Students are asking, ‘What’s the value of what I’m learning in school? I can Google anything I I need to know,’ and it’s true,” Busby said. “Students now have more knowledge than at any time in the past, but they don’t have the real experience. It’s a different world. Teachers have to listen to their students, but it’s still up to us to teach them. Education isn’t about grades or reaching graduation, it’s about setting students up for a successful life.”

Maya considered being a presenter, but opted not to.

“I thought it would be a bit hectic if I tried to organize (the event), make sure everything was going smoothly, and worry about my own presentation at the same time,” she said.

The reaction to the first Charger Talks installment was positive, Maya said. Her peers wanted to know when the next edition would be held, and how they could sign up to be presenters.

Because she’s graduating, Maya won’t be at Agoura High to plan another installment. But as a member of the AHS student council, she plans to introduce a motion to make Charger Talks a yearly event. Given how well the night went, she expects it to be adopted.

An aspiring aerospace engineer who spent last summer interning for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Maya is planning on attending Stanford University after graduation. If the opportunity arose, she’d love to return to Agoura High to give a Charger Talk of her own.

“I would definitely think about (doing one myself),” she said.