FHC Inspires continues to change lives

Ellie McDowell

More stories from Ellie McDowell

It takes a village
April 19, 2023

FHC Inspires: Fine Arts Center, 7 pm, May 31st.

It has been almost five years since sophomore Olivia Oorbeck lost her sister. She will never be the same and is still working through the emotions and difficulties. Olivia is honored and excited to share her story and the impact of her family at the fourth-annual FHC Inspires at 7 p.m. on May 31 at the Fine Arts Center.

“After the passing of my sister, my life changed drastically,” Olivia said. “Although at first it was extremely hard, I started to bond more with my family and learn who I truly am. I started to embrace things that I loved in the past and tried new hobbies that I was scared to do because I would be putting myself out there for many people to see.”

Olivia is one of 22 sophomores who will be taking to the Fine Arts Center stage in the fourth-annual event. These talks range in topic from something as innocent as working at a nursing home, to something as meaningful as the impact of a hand-written note, to something as emotional as a struggle with mental health.

Starting this year, these TED Talks were opened up to all English 10 students. The talks were worked toward all year and presented to other students.

“There is something to be gained from a big, stressful, end-of-the-year thing,” George said. “For AP classes, all year you’re [thinking about] the test. I feel like it’s good to say at the start of the year ‘We have to work on public speaking because in the end you have to do this.’ I really like that it’s a culminating activity of all that they’ve learned throughout the year.”

George couldn’t be happier to see the lessons that he has been implementing into his Honors classes impacting all English 10 students. He is proud to see these sophomores rise to the challenge.

“All Forest Hills kids do when you give them more expectations is they rise up to meet them,” George said. “I think sometimes we can get satisfied with doing enough, but this is a high expectation. I went to watch some of them from other classes and, guess what, they all rose up and met or exceeded the expectations. I think it gives kids a voice, and it gives them a chance to rise up and show how talented they really are.”

George has been working to take FHC Inspires to a new level. The selected students applied to be in the show and have been practicing for a month to perfect their talks; they have been working through stage fright and roadblocks to prepare to give these talks to more than just their peers.

While George runs the show, all details are passed on to student directors. This year, sophomores Kiera Kemppainen and Emmy Willemin have been working tirelessly for weeks to help run the show as student directors. Both girls originally considered auditioning to give their talks, but they are both glad they chose to take the student director position instead.

“It’s so different to see everyone else doing a TED Talk and sitting in the background,” Kiera said. “But, it’s also amazing to see how passionate everyone is. Obviously, everyone in FHC Inspires applied for it and wanted to do this. It’s so fun seeing how excited they are about getting better.”

The opportunities that have arisen because of Kiera’s decision to stick in the background instead of being on stage have been numerous. Her favorite is the ability to connect with her peers in ways she hadn’t before.

“I’m excited to get closer to people who I don’t talk to very much,” Kiera said. “I’m excited to hear their TED Talk topics because they’re all very personal to them, and it’s a great opportunity to get to know people and become closer.”

It’s not all fun and games, though. Emmy can speak to just how much work goes into perfecting this show.

Emmy and Kiera are responsible for the program, the t-shirts, and the printing. All of this takes a lot more work than one would expect.

“[Being backstage] will be interesting,” Emmy said. “I thought about being in it rather than being a student director, but I felt like being a student director would allow me to be more in control and more organized, which was a cool opportunity. There’s a lot of work to everything. Everything takes time, even things that you think would be an afterthought. [In reality], they take a lot of thought.”

So why clear your schedule to go see this show? The tagline that has been used for four years now is “Change a life.” That is the overall goal, along with giving students a voice.

22 sophomores will be taking to the Fine Arts Center stage at 7 pm on May 31.

“I hope that everyone who comes walks out and makes a change in their behavior and thoughts—starting the next day—based on a talk,” George said. “I know several people who heard [FHC alumni] Linus [Kaechele’s] back in the day started writing more hand-written notes. We have several this year that I think at least one person will be a new person the very next day [after listening]. That’s my hope—that everyone who shows up will leave changed.”

This is not only a teaching opportunity for these students, but a learning experience for people of any age.

“There’s a lot about our generation that will be interesting for parents to see,” Emmy said. “Some of it might be some things that students can relate to, but it might bring some new insight to parents into their kids lives.”

For Olivia, it’s an opportunity to talk about her past and share an amazing night with her friends.

“I’m extremely excited to not only present and share my story but to also listen to all the other incredible speakers,” she said. “We all have put in so much time and energy to create an amazing performance.