Every summer, the Aspen Ideas Festival invites some of the world's most important thinkers to come to Colorado and share their thoughts on an array of topics. Each year, the Bezos Family Foundation offers 12 high school juniors from across the country the chance to attend, all-expenses paid, and participate in discussions alongside such dignitaries as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
City Honors student Jimmitti Teysir was one of the 12 this year. She recently sat down with NeXt to talk about the experience.
>Q: How does Aspen stack up with Buffalo?
A: It's unlike any other place I've ever been to. It's a very natural setting and it's kind of secluded and it's surrounded by mountains. It's a very natural place. Very beautiful.
>Q: Did any one particular presenter stand out to you?
A: One of the people I liked a lot was Thomas Friedman. I hadn't heard of him before the trip. One of the coolest things was that he commented on social networking. His column isn't based on making friends, but inspiring people to make change and informing people. He was talking about the Twitter revolution and how you can go online and sign up for some kind of cause, but you're not actually influencing, or making a change. At the end of the day, "bang bang beats tweet tweet." It's up to us. We do have the initiative to make a difference.
>Q: How did you like being given the chance to speak with such world-renowned individuals?
A: The smaller groups gave us the opportunity to talk to people and ask questions. At first, before we went in, they did tell us not to be nervous. From the past, they said that the group had the reputation of, as younger kids, bringing in kind of a new perspective, and that they really appreciated those types of questions.
>Q: Where were the other kids from, and what did you think of them?
A: Tampa, Fla., Wichita, Kan., Chicago, San Francisco, the Bronx. One from Colorado. We were all over. Probably one of the best parts about the trip was the fact that the kids weren't competitive, school bookish types who were there to impress the group. They really were immersed with all these other things, especially the arts. We were able to talk late into the night about things that actually mattered to us.
>Q: I understand you've been given the opportunity to earn a grant toward furthering this sort of creative thinking in your community?
A: They encourage you to come back [home] and start your own local ideas festival. Becca Bass started an arts festival and I'm planning to elaborate on that and kind of have it be a celebration of Buffalo festival. It's for City Honors kids as well as any other kids in the Buffalo Public Schools. We utilize [connections] we have with the medical district and Roswell . . . people who are really passionate about their fields coming and talking to kids in different workshops.
>Q: What did you take away from this whole experience?
A: When I got back I kind of relayed the experience to an older person, and what they told me was that what I found out in one week, some people spend a lifetime finding out. So basically what I want to bring back is that it's all about creativity and innovation when you're trying to address a problem and, basically, to make sure to follow your own passions. You're most effective in addressing a problem that means the most to you.
Hans Glick is a senior at City Honors.