STATEN ISLAND, NY – Staten Island’s first-ever all-encompassing TEDx conference – TEDxElmPark – took the community on an empowering and insightful ride on September 30 at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The dynamic event — titled “Mindset Overhaul: Breaking Limitations” hosted by Damilola Banwo Oyalaje and co-hosted by her husband Adekunle Elijah Oyalaja – featured the genius of seven speakers, including educators, lawyers, mental health counselors, business professionals and more.
“Organizing this event – which involved finding and working with speakers, building a team of volunteers, planning the event itself, executing the plan and finding the right venue – was fun throughout. “said Banwo Oyalaje. “We are not a forgotten borough. We are an enlightened borough. I was pretty excited when I was able to get over 90% of the speakers from Staten Island.
At the free, three-hour TEDxElmPark event, more than 100 attendees listened to conversations that highlighted a multidimensional discourse ranging from mental wellness to the future of work and building local businesses for the community development and improvement.
“Our topic on education was to explore whether we are truly building tomorrow’s leaders and what we can do better,” Banwo Oyalaje said. “I can tell you with confidence that from the feedback we received from that day, people really enjoyed the talks. It was quite insightful and enlightening.
Banwo Oyalaje shared that a few people approached the production team at the end of the event to say “thank you.”
FINDING MEANING IN LIFE
A speaker at the event, Reverend Gail Wodkiewicz, a Staten Islander and certified trauma-focused therapist, challenged the audience to think deeply about how they can find meaning in their lives. As a community healer, she shared her stories and research and conducted exercises with the audience to create a deeper connection in the room.
She opened the topic “What is true happiness?” How can I lead a meaningful life? where she presented extensive research she conducted to support her speech. His theme was although happiness is important, it’s not what’s most important to leading a meaningful life.
She asked the audience to do an exercise to tap into personal experiences from the past that have brought meaning, inspiration and joy to their lives.
Eliminating the unproductive idea that happiness equals a meaningful life, Wodkiewicz explored with the audience how the meaning of life changes from person to person and from moment to moment. She gave examples of how people in different situations find meaning in different things.
As a woman who once lived in a park, Wodkiewicz shared that she found meaning in her next meal or shower. Through these examples, she showed how the ever-changing meaning of life an individual can create in the present moment.
“I loved being able to speak at the event. It changed my life in so many ways – just allowing my story to be told,” Wodkiewicz said. “I entered the area. I really felt a heart-to-heart connection with people. I rose up there, let go of ego and spoke from my heart. If a person hears something that changed their life, that’s all that matters.
The event ended, leaving many in the audience grateful to have been able to share a space with their community and cultivate a deep connection through the flow of ideas.
In the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading”, the TEDx program aims to help communities, organizations and individuals produce TED-style events at the local level. They are organized by volunteers from around the world with the aim of spreading the flow of ideas.