Suhani Goel is not your average Sunshine State senior school student. And we don’t just mean when it comes to study, tennis, piano, baking or reading…whew! No, we mean Suhani’s also found time to organise TEDxYouth@SomervilleHouse, an event designed to provide a platform for forward-thinking Brisbanites to share their stories of Courage, Opportunity, Vision, Innovation and Determination (C.O.V.I.D.) with the community at Somerville House, a girls’ school focussed on educating the next generation of fearless leaders of change.
So Suhani, what’s your thing?
If you ask my friends, it would be that I’m always around to help with anything – from schoolwork to listening to their problems. I’ve developed a bit of a reputation as the ‘go-to’ person so I guess that is my thing! Also, I absolutely love playing tennis and I’m never bored of it, despite playing since I was six. I’ve also gotten into cooking a lot, especially trying to find gluten free recipes that still taste amazing. I’ve had a few successes but also failures! Another stress-reliever for me would be playing the piano- from classical to pop! My favourite composer would be Elton John! My last hobby is a bit stereotypical – reading! I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t reading a book.
So what’s TEDxYouth@SomervilleHouse and what inspired you to organise it?
I had a little experience running a TEDx talk last year, so I wanted to bring the TEDx stage to a wider audience with more speakers, audience and sponsors. I feel Brisbane is treasure trove of ambitious, inspiring and forward-thinking people who all have knowledge and stories to share. So I wanted to create a platform for people to share their experience but also listen. TED talks have always been a part of my life, from the occasional one you stumble upon while browsing YouTube or the ones teachers share in class. When I discovered TEDx exists, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this global community. And what better way to do it than bringing the stage right to where I live and go to school!
What inspired the event theme of C.O.V.I.D. (Courage, Opportunity, Vision, Innovation, Determination)?
COVID has been a huge part of our lives. Plus with all the other uncertainty around, I felt people needed a reminder that to survive turbulent times, everyone needs to have some courage, look for opportunities, vision what the future will be like, get innovative with work, school and life, and also be determined to not let times like these ‘get you down’ so to speak.
You have an amazing group of panelists doing their thing in business, activism and medicine. Why did you choose them?
Because everyone’s interests vary I wanted to have a diverse range of views. Each one is accomplished in their field and I thought who better to speak and advocate for their profession, tell their story and impart wisdom. For example, Dr Zhenya Welyczko is a female orthopaedic surgeon, a profession that’s particularly male dominated. To see such a successful woman thrive as a surgeon provides me with inspiration to follow her into a similar field. Dr. Dinesh Palipana is not only a medical specialist, but he is also a Senior Advisor to the Disability Royal Commission and an Ambassador to the Human Rights Commission’s ‘Includeability’ program. He shared the stage with Lachlan Greer, a high school student from Miami State High School who spoke about how autism is his superpower! Hearing the two of them speak about how a disability is actually a superpower changed the audience’s perspective. And lastly, my own physics teacher David Haliczer has been such an inspiration to me. He’s a firm believer that girls can do anything boys can do…including being good at physics, chemistry and completing the Duke of Edinburgh award.
What are you hoping attendees take away from the event?
I’m happy if attendees take away just one message from any speaker that resonated with them as I believe even a single, small change in your mindset can have a radical effect on your life. I want people to walk away feeling inspired, confident and hopeful that they too can achieve greatness knowing not everyone achieves it in the same way.
You mentioned you want the event to be a legacy future Somerville House students will continue. What will this look like and why is it important to you?
I want everyone at Somerville House to have the opportunity to not only attend the event but learn how to run it. I’ve learnt so many skills from organising this event, including communicating with speakers, asking for money from sponsors, organising AV/video production, finding a venue (Somerville House has an amazing auditorium) and marketing. Balancing this with school and extra-curricular commitments is a wonderful lesson girls can learn, and I think it would be great for them to form connections outside of school and be able to share with the school and the community the brilliant ideas Brisbane contains.
Following this, what’s your future thing?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure what’s next for me. Logically, I think it would be to buckle down and focus on my ATAR. The main reason I did the TEDx talk so early in the year was so I wasn’t pressured for time during the assessment period. However, I’d still like to contribute to the school and society by doing volunteer work, and supporting my friends and cohort at sports events, debates, various competitions and other school events.
What is something you loved about the event experience that surprised you?
I loved being able to learn how to properly communicate with adults, whether speakers or sponsors. I feel it’s a useful skill to have in the future, especially with employers. I have to thank my parents for taking the time to help me cultivate this skill.
Suhani’s tips for doing your thing
- Fight the fear of rejection or appearing bold. I approached some big names to speak and sponsor and the worst response you will receive is a ‘no’.
- Aim high. Be clear on what you’re aiming for and be confident, because who knows what surprises could come your way.
- Ensure you have a reliable team. Surround yourself with people who have the skills and commitment to realise your vision not just your friends.
- Make sure to involve your immediate community. They can provide both emotional and practical support, just like my school did for me.
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