When Wheeler student Isabelle M. ’24 was invited to join the lineup of speakers for TEDxProvidence, she was told she could speak about anything and everything. “Though that freedom was a bit overwhelming at first, I knew immediately that my talk would stem from a very personal place,” says Isabelle. “I also knew I wanted my message to reach others my age.”
She ultimately decided to talk about how she learned to embrace her identity as an Asian American girl growing up in a predominantly white community and culture, and how important embracing your identity is for young people, both to take the lead in their own life and in to serve as a role model for others.
“It’s incredible to see the way Isabelle’s hard work and dedication to her community have enabled her to make a significant impact,” says Unity & Diversity Student Support Coordinator Rose Phildor P’28, referring both to Isabelle’s TedXProvidence talk and the fact that she was a finalist in the inaugural Transform Rhode Island Scholarship program in 2022. Through the TRIS program, the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) foundation invites young people of color to submit big ideas that would improve the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in Rhode Island. Isabelle’s proposal to develop a festival celebrating the joy and strength of BIPOC communities was among their favorites, and now, as part of her TEDxProvidence preparation, she reached out to the foundation for some initial guidance.
From there, she formed a framework and began writing – and reciting. “My family must have heard me recite my talk a million times at the dinner table, and they were definitely sick of hearing it by the time the actual event rolled around!” she says. “The first time I went on stage was actually the only time anyone other than my family heard my presentation. It was both nerve-wracking and fun, and what an incredible honor it was to be on the same stage as some of the incredible speakers who also presented that day!”
“The best part was definitely the love and support I got from my friends, family, and teachers,” Isabelle continued. “After my talk, two of my best friends at Wheeler and [Communications Assistant and Teacher of Performing Arts and Asian Affinity Advisor] Jesse Yip [’08] – one of the teachers who has been most supportive of me during my time at Wheeler – surprised me at the stage door to congratulate me. It’s a moment I will never forget.”
Congratulations to Isabelle! We invite you to watch her TEDxProvidence talk, titled “The Romantic Lead(er).”