TEDxCharleston ideas intended to ripple into community

By Liz Segrist
Published April 9, 2014

Fourteen speakers shared their ideas at TEDxCharleston yesterday in the hopes of sparking something within the audience — the ever desired ripple effect.

Roughly 600 attendees gathered at Memminger Auditorium in downtown Charleston to hear the second local TEDx event.

Some speakers made the audience feel gratitude for American opportunities and health care, like Dr. Edward O’Bryan, who has treated thousands suffering from diarrhea, infections and broken bones in developing nations.

He saw a man who could not work for years because he had a broken leg and did not live anywhere near a hospital that could perform his surgery. He knew of a boy that died from an allergic reaction to antibiotics meant to heal an infection from a small scratch.

In the U.S., these injuries would not be considered life-threatening.

“Not everything that’s deadly has a spokesperson,” said O’Bryan, the co-founder of the Palmetto Medical Initiative, a global nonprofit that provides sustainable health care to those in need.

Other speakers made the audience want to push for change for environmental designs or privacy regulations, while others instilled an appreciation for the arts and nature. But among many of the speakers, a theme emerged: the need to improve the lives of children and the ripple effect that can have on the world.

Whether a child grows up in an environment that affords life skills, educational opportunities, healthy and safe environments and access to information can often determine how they operate as an adult, which affects future workforces, communities and businesses.

Jill Siegal Chalsty, who was bullied as a kid, realized the huge need for kids to learn life skills in order to be successful adults. She founded Community for Education Foundation to teach crucial life skills, such as communication and problem solving, to kids around the country and in Charleston.

Andrew Roskill, the founder and CEO of Charleston-based BiblioLabs, said he sees digital access to education and information as a way to help families and children rise out of poverty.

His software company works to revolutionize the way libraries showcase their offerings. He said libraries need to take a lesson from Apple, Amazon and Google, which have made their products easy, engaging, elegant and addicting.

If the content is easy to access, more people will take advantage of it, which can help both educate and prepare people for the workforce, he said.

“It is hard to climb over the wall of economic inequality,” Roskill said.

Ben Navarro launched Meeting Street Academy, a Charleston school with a Spartanburg affiliate that tries to shake up the traditional educational models and prepare under-resourced kids for college.

Navarro, the CEO of Sherman Financial Group, said half of the students in the state are considered low-income and many cannot read on the same grade level as their peers. He said the educational system in South Carolina is failing them.

At Meeting Street Academy, teachers’ work is examined and given feedback. Administrators try to start working with kids at an earlier age. Kids’ school days are longer and parent involvement is mandated.

Navarro said these kids simply need a chance to have the same opportunities, and the same expectations, as their affluent counterparts throughout the state.

“This isn’t about race. It’s not about income. It’s about our kids — and giving them the chance they deserve ... Everyone should have the chance to attain their version of the American dream.” Navarro said.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Charleston Regional Business Journal to read more coverage of TEDxCharleston in the April 21 issue.

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