Shirley Sham:
Style Your Soul
Jung Jung:
Successful Failure: The Beauty of Stereotypes
Wendy Xia:
Lost Children: MIA or on the Run
Frank Wang:
Sharing to Shine
Carol Zhu:
The Neglected Public Health Issue
Andrew Shainker:
Open Doors
Lawrence Chow:
Sojourner: Reimagining the Migrant
Liz Xu:
Music and Art Performance
Michelle Mao:
Beatbox Showcase
“A story is not just a few words, a story is a vision.”
The art of crafting a story is something important to all of us because stories define almost every moment of our lives. From telling an interesting anecdote to friends to the personal essay that we have already or will end up drafting, to crafting our own futures, stories are our ways of communicating with others, but also, more importantly, our ways of understanding ourselves. In this talk, Larry Schuster encourages us to create and tell our own powerful life stories and “fly” with them, leaving us with the question of “what is your story?”
Just like stories, our lives are bursting with characters, intricate relationships, motifs, and underlying themes. At this stage, we may consider our lives to be a sheer mess (especially considering late night cramming and disrupted sleep cycles), but it helps to consider all this as part of a larger story that we slowly weave throughout our lives, and by exploring the different elements of a story present, we ultimately come to a more coherent view of our own lives and perhaps life in general.
So when you write your personal essays for college or for life, don’t fret. Craft the story that is uniquely you by sifting through the characters and themes of your life. As Larry Schuster puts it, the most powerful story is the story we tell ourselves, and I believe that story will be apparent and amazing as long as you explore it with passion and authenticity.
Larry Schuster:
Leo Szeto:
A Dream to Amuse
Leo Szeto's story tells a message that should resonate with many of us. It's not about what you do, but why you do it. For him, his "why" was about bringing people joy. While for you, it could perhaps have something to do with changing the world or perhaps it only involves learning to make yourself a slightly better person.
        As we emerge into an increasingly complex world, we are sometimes overwhelmed by the expectations of others, but we should never forget our own inner, unique dream. For those of us heading to college, choosing a major and our future jobs may seem difficult, we should let what motivates us guide us. For those of us trying to decide on which extracurriculars to pursue in school, we should also ask ourselves what our passions are. Sure, college applications are important, but the activity becomes much more meaningful if you have an inner purpose accompanying it.
        Either way, as we approach the next stages of our lives, it is important to tap into those childhood dreams of ours and ask "why" because they may not be as simple as they seem.
Davy Guo and Mooney Niu:
The Myth of Experience

Is what you see and hear every day necessarily the truthful reality? One might say, “yes, of course”; however, the reality is often perceived in pieces from different perspectives, and we often see the side of the story that resonates most with us, with what we are most familiar with. It is our past experiences that shape our perception of reality. Davy Guo and Mooney Niu engage us in an in-depth reflection of how our perceptions of real-world situations are reflective of our experiences — the inner process of cognitive evaluation.

In this day and age, where the pace of living is growing more rapidly than ever and the race toward success becoming more competitive than ever, more and more of us are feeling overwhelmed. As a result, we often bring our heightened emotions into perceiving our world. That’s why the need to take a break and reflect on the influence of your emotions and experiences on how you view the reality around you is crucial in handling stress, as well as gaining control. As said by Niu, maintaining psychological health is the foundation of our future.

In the modern era, where a growing number of the population are following the same trends, what makes you unique from others is the style in which you conduct yourself. Shirley Sham delivers a very exciting and inspiring speech about what makes you, you. Using the acronym SOUL (Silence|Outfit|Uniqueness|Love), she makes you realize just how simple it is to form your own style.

Style does not mean dressing in all kinds of expensive, well-known brands; rather, it is about establishing your own character. Shirley stresses how maintaining silence in observation, dressing to impress, and not conforming to stereotypes could develop one’s style from inside out. She successfully summarized the art of style in her conclusion, “Fashion fades, but personal style is eternal.”

Everyone has some type of stereotypical image of everything in their heads. However, is it really beneficial for you and everyone around you to have a stereotypical mind? Jung Jung recounts his story of facing the dilemma of the stereotypical image being used against him. All throughout his childhood, he has been alienated by students from the schools he attended, just because he is of a different nationality and ethnicity. As a result, he alienated himself too, by putting up a wall between himself and others. However, when he found his passion in music, everything changed.

Jung Jung tells a story about how he overcame his stereotypical mind and became confident and comfortable in communicating with others. Until 7th grade, he had trouble fitting in; it was difficult for him to find a place where he could be himself. However, after encountering the hip-pop culture and learning from the best before him, he was encouraged to overcome the difficulties he faced in the past. He learned to convert his weaknesses into his strengths, which is what he calls “the beauty of the stereotype.”

While it may not seem like it, children have gone, and are going, missing every day. In fact, only 0.1% of all lost children can actually have the chance to go back home. Now, however, through the development of social media, a more dedicated and widespread effort can be put into solving this critical issue.

Wendy Xia introduces an organization for finding lost children, called Lost and Found. They fully utilize the characteristics of the social media age. A way to spread awareness and increase the chance of children being found is through putting stickers on what is probably the most circulated object in China — mail order packages. These stickers are conspicuous enough for the sender, the receiver, and everyone along the way to see the information of missing children. By putting this method into practice, more effort is put into helping lost children. Even with just one sticker, there is always a chance to make a change.

Sharing is an aspect of our lives that is unavoidable. We communicate with our friends, families, and peers every day about our troubles or triumphs.

Frank speaks about how the sharing of knowledge and ideas helps us. It is an effective way to relieve stress, a great way to socialize, and a useful tool that helps us become more grateful for our surroundings. In addition, the sharing of knowledge can bring many benefits to others, such as a higher score or an increased amount of free time.
One out of five children do not have the basic vaccination program in the world. Every 20 seconds, there is one under-five death.”

In this informative talk, Carol Zhu reveals to us the behind the scenes of tackling major public health issues of today and advocates for more investment and awareness in this often under-funded area to help those desperately in need of vaccination and better health care. Her talk gives us a chance to catch a glimpse of the lives of people in impoverished areas of the world who die of diseases that to us may be perfectly treatable or preventable. This large gap in living conditions and vaccination programs is something we must all be aware of and work towards closing. As her talk will reveal, whether it’s through innovative technology, art, donations, or just spreading the news, we can all contribute to helping to make the lives of many better.

Despite the increase in awareness that the LGBT community has received in recent years, being gay is still associated with a negative connotation in many regions. It often even reaches to an extent where it is considered a serious sickness or something worth persecuting. Andrew Jordan Shainker recounts his struggles when growing up, the masks that he would put on to try to fit in with the crowd. However, when he started an LGBT organization called “OpenDoors”, he opened the door to creating an environment that provides the opportunity for members to connect with each other on a more intimate basis, one without the bar scene or online dating. The organization started out with a small number of people in his hometown, and later expanded to over 2000 people worldwide; Andrew even brought OpenDoors to China, where the LGBT community has struggled to find its place. Through his own experience, Andrew shows how instead of struggling to fit in, one should embrace his/her individuality.

“What are the first words that come to mind when someone mentions migrant?”

What are migrants? People who move from one place to another. However, the Industrial Revolution associated a new socioeconomic dimension to the word “migrant”, transforming the original meaning of the term to one with the implicit meaning of the movement of a lower economic class from rural to urban areas. The negative connotation of the modern interpretation of “migrant” is best reflected in today’s Chinese migrant workers, who are often considered as outsiders by the urban population, and consequently play an inferior role in society.

Lawrence Chow introduces another term, one that is more inclusive and without a negative vibe than the modern interpretation of “migrant” — sojourner. While “migrant” emphasizes the element of movement, “sojourner” focuses on the element of stay. Thus, we are all sojourners in a way, living through life and making the best experience out of our stay in this world.

Unlike the other “ideas worth spreading,” Liz Xu conveyed her message to the audience via art and music. As the lively music played in the background, Liz began her painting with a stroke of the pen. Soon enough, the confident and vivid brushstrokes skidded across on the paper, with Liz’s interchange of pen and brush, produced a dynamic piece of artwork with strong visual impact. Indeed, it is hard to believe that it could be done in just 6 minutes.

With a casual introduction about beatboxing and her own experiences, Michelle Mao takes the audience on a experience of beatboxing across three very different genres. Not only did she perform an original composition with seven layers of sound, she showed to us that beatboxing is not something that requires inherent talent, but rather an activity that needs passion and a lot of practice.