x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Tell Us A Story

This event occurred on
March 22, 2014
3:00pm - 6:00pm GST
(UTC +4hrs)
Abu Dhabi, AZ
United Arab Emirates

TEDxYouth@ACS is the CAS project of Dina Shriem and Dennis Hilgendorf (Class of 2014). CAS stands for Creativity, Action and Service; it is a core component of the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. The idea for a TED-like day of talks came up during the second semester of Grade 11, when clips from TEDTalks videos were screened and discussed in classes such as English Higher Level and Theory of Knowledge.

ACS Auditorium
American Community School of Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, AZ
United Arab Emirates
Event type:
Youth (What is this?)
See more ­T­E­Dx­Youth@­A­C­S events


Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Melissa Dertian

Are you an artist? Do you speak five languages? Can you do handstands or backflips? If you weren’t born with these abilities, must you lead a watercolor-less, monolingual, unacrobatic life? Ms. Dertian doesn’t think so. She may not be able to accurately sketch cats (yet), but as ACS’s theater and public speaking teacher, Ms. Dertian knows a thing or two about “learnable talent.”

Ashwini Singh

A self-confessed anime fanatic, Ashwini Singh has enjoyed more than 300 shows in the past three years. What could inspire such devotion? Her answer pulls together philosophy and technology and media studies, and takes apart thought-provoking scenes from a few of her favorite shows. Like all narrative forms, anime allows its fans to ponder the human condition … so don’t tell Ashwini it’s only for children.

Amit Khanna

He may be a biology teacher, but, to his students, Dr. Khanna is first and foremost a storyteller. Yet good science can ruin a great story. Drawing from his repertoire of childhood anecdotes and science news alike, Dr. Khanna contends that, sometimes, the trees are as important as the forest.

Amira Al-Subaey

Last summer, Amira Al-Subaey became the youngest Saudi-American woman to climb to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. That’s the height of seven Burj Khalifas. How appropriate, then, that she shares seven lessons learned from preparing for, ascending, “summitting,” and – just as important – descending from “Kili,” the awe-inspiring mountain she is now on a nickname basis with.

Valdir Chagas

With so much reading to do these days, who has time for “The Classics”? French teacher Mr. Chagas tackles this bête noire of language and literature students. The classics, he asserts, make us who we are. Racine and Voltaire introduce us to people we’ll meet later in life; Sartre allows us to form our own opinions; Flaubert and Borges show us how to communicate them in beautiful words.

Matt Foss

Born and raised in Maine, Mr. Foss was a DJ and radio producer before turning to teaching 18 years ago. Always looking for an adventure, he has taught in the U.S., Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. His passions include all things athletic, particularly running, baseball, golf, hiking, and mountain biking. He also loves spending time with his Lovely Ladies (wife Micheline and daughter Malise). Being one of six Matts at ACS, Mr. Foss is thinking of using his unique middle name, Amos, to avoid further confusion. For him, a good story can connect individuals to the collective human experience.

Anne Russell

Although she spent the first 21 years of her life in New Jersey, by the time Ms. Russell went to college, family trips had taken her to 48 states and all the provinces in Canada. She then went west to explore the powder of first snows in Steamboat Springs, and she has lived outside the U.S. since she was 30. Her academic interests started in history, migrated to anthropology, and now lie with service learning and sustainability. She believes that encounters with others frame the context of our stories and guide our choices in ways we do not always realize.

Julia Grifferty

Now in her ninth year at ACS, Julia defines her home as the ACS community. Her family is from New York and has lived in Budapest, Hungary; Dakar, Senegal; and Tblisi, Georgia. Having visited over 20 countries, Julia loves traveling and service, and considers her most memorable trip to be the OCEAN Nepal service trip. She also believes that residents of developed countries have the responsibility of living an environmentally sustainable life. She started her Boot the Bottle initiative to call for an end to our dependency on bottled water. Her talk will explain why we should “boot the bottle.”

Paul Self

If humor can be defined as the “juxtaposition of improbables,” then Mr. Self’s life should be uproariously funny, as it is truly improbable. Born to working-class parents in Kentucky, he was sent off to a safe enclave in the mountains to “escape interracial school integration” and preserve his identity. That effort achieved sub-optimal results. His restless, authenticity-seeking personality manifested itself early and often, while still being restrained by a stern ethical internal monitor. After attempts to launch into the unknown failed to “gain escape velocity,” he and his tolerant wife, Lydia, and their two children left the motherland, 21 years and five countries ago. Besides an undying affinity for stories and ideas, Mr. Self retains a strange passion for basketball.

Eric Hilgendorf

As Associate Dean of Primary and Secondary Education Engagement at New York University Abu Dhabi, Dr. Hilgendorf creates innovative programs designed to bridge the K-12 continuum with higher education. His daughter thus coined for him the title of “knowledge architect,” which he thinks is cool, although it has yet to catch on. His written works include research, narrative and screenplay, and his journalistic essay, “Picnic in a Cemetery,” won the runner-up award in the Atlantic Monthly National Writers Contest. This was later turned into a book with the same title, albeit yet to be published. As he explains: “I had to make a choice: publish my dissertation or publish my book. My wife chose the dissertation.” Dr. Hilgendorf is Vice Chairman of the ACS Board of Trustees. When he is not writing or speaking, he may be playing tennis with his wife and his oldest son, doing art with his daughter, or looking under rocks for bugs with his youngest.

Organizing team


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Dennis Hilgendorf
    Curator and executive producer
  • Dina Shriem
    Curator and executive producer
  • Jorge Padilla
  • Sarah Daher
    Stage manager
  • Nuno Andrade
    Production crew
  • Diana Nakib
    Front of house
  • Anjali Hopley
    Front of house
  • Kinga Szprengiel
    Video and production lead
  • KuChul Jung
    Video crew
  • Nyx Whatley
    Video crew
  • Koko Balian
    Video crew
  • Ashwini Singh
    Video editor