Our Favorite Speakers + Performances From TEDxTeen [GIFs]

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How did you spend last Saturday? We spent it surrounded by incredibly motivated, inspiring, and creative young people at the annual TEDxTeen conference!

This winter’s event took place at the Scholastic building in New York City. Surrounded by art from our favorite childhood books, (Clifford totally inspired our passion for rescue dogs!), we got to meet, mingle and GIF some truly awesome folks.

+ Sana Amanat brings a female superhero to life.

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As an editor at Marvel comics, Sana Amanat has had the opportunity to create characters that don’t fit the typical mold of a superhero. She co-created Miles Morales, the first African-American and Latino Spider-man, which lead to critical acclaim. She’s now responsible for Ms. Marvel, a butt-kicking, stereotype-shattering female Muslim superhero. In her panel, Amanat explained that she always felt like an outsider while growing up and that she identified with comic books because the characters were often outcasts as well. Upon creating Ms. Marvel, Amanat noted, “I created a character I could identify with.”

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+ Nile Rodgers is up all night to … be successful.

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Nile Rodgers has worked with EVERYONE. Madonna, David Bowie, Pharrell — you name them, he’s helped them produce a stellar record. When we met up with the host of this year’s TEDxTeen, he was all smiles and super-optimistic. He noted that staying positive and having lots of energy are the keys to success. He was impressed with all of the speakers and performers at the conference, and even offered one of them — Mark van der Heijden, the backpacking intern — an internship.

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+ Can Mark van der Heijden stay on your couch?

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Everyone has fantasies about quitting their job, moving out of their apartment and traveling the world, but very few people have the guts to actually do it. Mark van der Heijden is one of those people. In January of 2014, he left his cushy advertising job in his home country of Holland, and took off for an adventure that would take him around the globe, as he traded free internship work for a place to sleep and food to eat. On his journey he’s met many interesting people and has taken note of the divide between the rich people he works for and the poor people in many of the countries he’s visiting.

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+ The Bumbys have something to say … about you.

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Does the idea of having two masked strangers write a completely honest impression of your physical appearance terrify you? Yeah, us too. That is until we saw The Bumbys at work. The duo has been performing together since 2008. There performances involve them writing out what they think of the way you look and how they think the world might see you — but they’re not jerks! They always put a positive spin on it because they believe that finding the good in people is the most interesting part of their work. As they told MTV Voices, they just want to do one thing to change the world: “We would remove whatever part of the human brain that makes people act cynically.” During TEDxTeen, The Bumbys sat in the lobby so audience members could participate. They even Bumbied Nile Rogers!

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+ Marian Bechtel makes music that saves lives.

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She was always interested in science, but one day, while she was playing the piano (and only 13), Marian Bechtel made a connection that would end up turning her interest into a full-blown passion. Marian realized that the strings on a nearby banjo vibrated as she played the piano. She related this back to a recent talk she had heard about land mines and how the technology used to detect them does not work in wet soil. She took her idea to use sound waves to detect land mines to different science fairs and eventually landed in the pages of Popular Science. She told MTV Voices, “I’m inspired by anyone who’s trying to make a difference in the world — old or young. Odd as it sounds, I’m especially inspired by strangers I meet who show me kindness for no reason other than that we’re both people who deserve respect and love. As my grandmother would say, ‘Folks is folks.’”

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+ Speaking of science, GZA (yes, that GZA) is a total science genius.

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This member of Wu-Tang Clan is all about science. GZA is leading the way for young people to use hip-hop to learn all about theory, nature, medicine and the universe. He’s the founding member of Science Genius, which, according to the TED website, “seeks to engage high school students in science using hip-hop. The pilot program was met with great success in terms of recognition and results: Participating schools saw an increase in regents exams scores and a 15 to 25% rise in attendance. When asked who was his favorite Wu-Tang member, Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, said “GZA. Not only is he a great lyricist, but I also admire his work to engage African-American and Latino students in the sciences.”

If you’re interested in attending or speaking (!!!) at TEDxTeen, the next one is in London in October. Hop to it!

Photos: Mr. Gif

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