TEDxScranton 2022: Higher Ground

TEDxScranton 2022: Higher Ground

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Lackawanna College

501 Vine Street

Scranton, PA 18509

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About this event

TEDx is a grassroots initiative, created in the spirit of TED’s overall mission to research and discover “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx brings the spirit of TED to local communities around the globe through TEDx events. These events are organized by passionate individuals who seek to uncover new ideas and to share the latest research in their local areas that spark conversations in their communities. TEDx events include live speakers and recorded TED Talks, and are organized independently under a free license granted by TED. These events are not controlled by TED, but event organizers agree to abide by our format, and are offered guidelines for curation, speaker coaching, event organizing and more. They learn from us and from each other. More than 3000 events are now held annually.

Being of South Asian descent, Prerna Chakkingal connects to her cultural roots through music and Indian classical dance. Devoted to piano, she has earned many national and international Guild awards for her craft. Moreover, Prerna takes great interest in science and healthcare and envisions herself pursuing a degree in the medical field, seeking to break the biases of gender.

Prerna hopes to combine her passions for music, medicine and community service by involving special needs students in musical endeavors. Prerna believes that music encourages expression and expressive abilities will allow children with mental challenges to broaden opportunities and shape their own futures. She wants to transform these visions into reality through extensive research, applications, and community assistance.

Prerna is currently a sophomore at South Fayette High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She also enjoys serving her community by fulfilling her responsibilities as a Girl Scout Senior.

Katlynn Whitaker resides in the Binghamton, New York area, but as a 2017 Marywood University alum, refers to Scranton as her “home away from home.” She is a graphic designer and works in the marketing and communications industry. She enjoys learning about design for social change and how to be a better mental health advocate. Katlynn is excited to present at TEDxScranton and hopes that her talk will spark more conversations about mental health within K-12 education. Her other interests include folding paper cranes, tap dancing, and watching the Chicago Cubs.

Ava Hazzouri is a passionate educational equity activist. She founded The Study Hard Project, a peer-tutoring non-profit with 47 student volunteers from 13 area high schools who have held hundreds of tutoring sessions in 20 academic subjects, and “Learn Smart,” a mentorship program for students with learning differences. Ava initiated and authored Senator Flynn’s Student Ambassador Program and is spearheading student-written legislation for educational equity in Pennsylvania that Senator Flynn will present on the senate floor this Spring.

Ava is a member of Wyoming Seminary's Blue Crew, Health Occupations Student Association, Dude Be Nice, The Community Service Board, and the golf team. She is the History Department Representative, acting as a liaison between students and faculty, and is a Writing Center tutor and Peer tutor. Ava co-founded her school’s A Capella Club and History Club. She is Baking Club leader.

Ava was named one of 25 Scholastic Superstars, Class of 2022 by the Citizen Voice. She received the Wyoming Seminary Alumni Service Award for her leadership on and off campus and is a member of Cum Laude Society.

Hailing from York, Pennsylvania, Mikayla Alexandria is an empath, actress, and artist at heart. More than just an entertainer, she has come to TEDxScranton with more than 15 years of managing multiple chronic illnesses such as ulcerative colitis, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, depression, and other related conditions and life-threatening experiences.

Mikayla is passionate about helping others find their identity and live life to the fullest through radical acceptance, body positivity, education, advocacy, and authenticity. She spends most of her free time writing and reading about psychology, spirituality, and history. She is working toward publishing a book of poetry and essays, launching a philosophical and spiritually based podcast, and creating communities where deeper honesty can grow.

Maria MacDonald is a practicing interior architect and Program Director of Interior Architecture at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She specializes in adaptive reuse, preservation, and restoration projects. With over 25 years of experience, she partners her professional practice with her teaching. Throughout her career she has been a team leader for many significant community projects. As an educator her intense focus is on service and community outreach, providing community-based, experiential learning opportunities for her students and the people in the communities where they work.

She is a graduate in both Architecture and Interior Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design where she received the Excellence in Design award for her work on the “Reclamation of Forgotten Spaces.”Maria is a founding faculty member of Marywood University’s School of Architecture and has served as the Interior Architecture Program Director for the past 15 years. She has steered the program successfully through two full NASAD accreditations.

With her integrative, holistic design approach, she works to strengthen the relationships between the allied design disciplines and the people and environments where we live.

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