TEDx Youth Event

The Harris Theater
205 E. Randolph Drive
Chicago, IL 60601

The TEDxMidwest Youth event is by far the most exciting, thought provoking and inspiring event that NFTE students participated in throughout the year. It is a phen-omenal event that is inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs and the ultimate opportunity for our students to experience what is possible for their lives and their futures.Christine Poorman
Executive Director
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

The TEDxYouth@Midwest Event brings together high school students, educators, and community organization leaders for a one day celebration of ideas and real world advice from some of the most amazing thinkers and doers in the world. Attendance is free of charge.

We are looking for the next generation of high school students with potential to positively affect the world. Attendees at the Youth Event include 400 promising sophomores and juniors from several dozen Chicago public schools and 100 of their educators and community leaders.

Each year we have 20 world-class speakers and performers who inspire students, and also meet and talk with them about their stories of overcoming great challenges, real-life heroics and passions for causes.  Past presenters include Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, MIR space station owner Chirinjeev Kathuria, horror film director Wes Craven, urban activist Majora Carter, anthropologist Meave Leakey, Telemundo anchorwoman Tsi-Tsi-Ki Felix, top hacker Pablos Holman, MacArthur and Pulitzer Prize winners and many others.

Please note that all speaker sessions for TEDxMidwest adult and youth events are broadcast publicly at no cost live on the Internet. All speaker videos also are posted on YouTube, where they have been downloaded more than 200 million times.


Speakers for the Previous Youth Event


Lawrence Lessig

Harvard Professor and Activist

Larry is getting citizens into the corruption fight – Also one of the top speakers at a previous event. He is averaging 100,000 views of his TED Talk per week.


Paul Salopek

2-Time Pulitzer Winning Writer Walking Across the World

Paul is tracing the journey of man out of Africa 70,000 years ago through Asia to North America all the way to Patagonia. Over the next 7 years, he will go through 100 pairs of shoes and update these site:




Ron Finley

Guerilla Gardener from South Central LA
 - TED 2013 Speaker

Ron’s vision for a healthy, accessible “food forest” started with the curbside veggie garden he planted in the strip of dirt in front of his own house. When the city tried to shut it down, Finley’s fight gave voice to a larger movement that provides nourishment, empowerment, education – and healthy, hopeful futures – one urban garden at a time. He is averaging 100,000 views of his TED Talk per week.


Shaka Senghor

Former Detroit Felon Turned Peacemaker/Author

An amazing story of redemption from a man who served 19 years in prison and is now a leader in the national urban peace movement.


Bill Strickland

MacArthur Prize Winning Training Hero - Former TED Speaker

As Pittsburgh’s steel economy crumbled, Bill trained thousands through the power of fountains, art and dreams – “An incredible speaker”.


Frank Heidt

One of the World’s Top Computer Security Experts

Frank has worked for the Department of Defense and is an expert at information warfare. He is a fascinating and unique speaker and will demonstrate several techniques live and discuss recent events in China.


Dave Gallo

Underwater Explorer and Oceanographer - Former TED Speaker

Dave is a pioneer in ocean exploration with amazing underwater video and has the fifth most popular TED Talk.


Mellody Hobson

President of Ariel Investments

Mellody manages one of the largest investment firms and has over $3B in assets. She will be speaking on financial literacy.


Benjamin Harrison

Wake Forest Baptist Professor Who Grows Human Organs in the Lab

Ben works at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where the goal is to grow replacement tissues and organs for patients. One strategy uses modified ink jet printers to print tissues. The institute’s work fascinated a previous TED audience when a patient with a lab-grown bladder walked on stage.


Tierney Thys

Marine Biologist & Passionate Advocate for the Sea - Former TED Speaker

National Geographic Explorer, filmmaker, giant fish researcher and science educator with crazy creative ways to spark ocean conservation.


Dr. Jimmy Lin

Doctor Solving Undiagnosable Children’s Diseases & TED Fellow

Jimmy is the heroic doctor that helps families solve undiagnosable diseases using gene mapping and crowdfunding to pay for the research.


Brian Babylon

Comedian and TEDxMidwest Youth Event Emcee

Brian is the very funny NPR / WBEZ radio personality and standup comedian that got the 550 TEDxMidwest Youth attendees rocking at our last event.


Jullien Gordon

Urban Youth Advisor & TEDx Youth Favorite

Jullien is the hip young advisor to urban youth and was a huge hit at the last event – and is back this year with a new talk.


Zoe Damacela

Formerly Homeless, Young Fashion Designer

Chicago entrepreneur and NFTE graduate who was featured on cover of 17 magazine after she won national contest.


Emerson Spartz

Very Successful Young Chicago Entrepreneur

At the age of 12, Emerson founded the #1 Harry Potter website in the world, which attracted 50 million page views per month. Today he is a leading expert on internet virality and has been featured in major media including the Wall Street Journal, CBS Evening News, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. As the CEO of Spartz Inc, he runs one of the fastest-growing digital media publishers with 160 million page views per month.

REginald Robinson - sml

Reginald Robinson

Music - MacArthur Prize Winning Ragtime Pianist

Reginald grew up in the Henry Horner housing projects on the south side of Chicago learning to play piano at an early age.  In 2004 he won  a MacArthur “genius grant”,  which is given to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” In 2010, he released a collection of 60 original ragtime piano compositions.


Chris Pierce

Music - Great Musician with Hearing Disorder

Chris Pierce is a lyrical and soulful musician who believes in the “healing powers of music” even though he was struck with a rare hearing disorder. He has shared stages with Seal, BB King, Al Green, Aaron Neville, Toots and the Maytals.



TEDxMidwest is known for its world class speakers, including inventor Dean Kamen, psychologist Phil Zimbardo, hacker Pablos Holman and National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen.
See the TEDx Speakers



There will be over 600 amazing attendees including 400 CEOs and Presidents, 150 artists and performance professionals, heads of major cultural institutions, 50 top high school students, and dozens of MacArthur, Pulitzer, Polk, Peabody, and Nobel prize winners.
More on Attendees



Interested in helping make TEDxMidwest great or helping with TEDxYouth@Midwest?
Visit our Volunteers page to view volunteer opportunities and let us know how you would like to help.