TXYA Discomfort Zone Program

"Use your fear...it can take you to the place where you store your courage" -Amelia Earhart, first female aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean


        We are so excited you have joined us today for TEDxYouth@Austin Discomfort Zone! Every year we explore the most relevant themes and ideas in contemporary society - and this year is certainly no exception.
        We have designed this day to encourage the difficult conversations, make space for each other and build resiliency ourselves. We sincerely hope that we will inspire you to push boundaries and question conventional notions, making ripples of change along the way. Join an inspiring tribe of explorers as we uncover what it means to extend our boundaries of thought.
        The speakers, performers, and experiences today were chosen to pique your interests, but also to challenge the way you view the world. By bringing together so many amazingly creative and diverse youth, we hope to ignite conversations and spark passions that will drive you far beyond the present. So please take a minute to meet the people around you, especially if it makes you uncomfortable, and learn what brought them here today.

Sophie, Matthew + The TEDxYouth@Austin Team

Learn more about the Event

  1. Watch the show via Livestream
  2. Meet your Hosts
  3. Meet your Speakers and Performers
  4. Check out our xLabs
  5. Special Thanks to our Partners

Watch the show via Livestream

Meet your Hosts


Matthew Kearney

Project Manager

MATTHEW KEARNEY is a senior at Westlake High School. He's the Student Council Vice-President, involved in the Challenge Success Initiative and serves on committees focused on revising the GPA system. Matthew is also a highly competitive cross country and distance track runner. Go Matthew, go!


Sophie Guess

Content Director

SOPHIE GUESS is a senior at St. Stephen's Episcopal School. She participates in soccer, theater, and environmentalism. TEDx2018 marks her second year of involvement in the program and she hopes to continue inspiring youth throughout it and her college career after.


Nancy Giordano


NANCY GIORDANO brought TEDxAustin to town nine years ago and has been a big champion for this Youth event – eager to join hundreds around the world doing the same. With a passion for seeing the potential in everything, she loves her work as a "cultural acupuncturist," naturally weaving ideas together to build teams and organizations that contribute meaningfully to our futures.


Carol Reese


CAROL REESE is an educator in Eanes ISD and an enthusiastic supporter of the idea that TED talks are not just for adults. After years of inviting speakers with “ideas worth spreading” to her classroom, she and a dynamic volunteer group launched TEDxYouth@Austin, building an engaging experience for area youth. An encourager, connector, and catalyst, she is excited about this Discomfort Zone event!

Meet the Rest of Our Team!

Meet your Speakers and Performers


Doreen Lorenzo

Creative Visionary

DOREEN LORENZO is a successful leader of global creative firms who advised Fortune 100 companies on design and innovation issues for decades. In September of 2017 she was appointed Assistant Dean in the new school of Design and Creative Technologies at the University of Texas, Austin. She was previously the Director of the Center for Integrated Design at UT. She is a co-founder of mobile video insights firm Vidlet, as well as a board member and advisor of several other startups, and a columnist for Fast Company Co. Design and Medium.


Naran Shettigar

Connoisseur of the Unfamiliar

NARAN SHETTIGAR is a sophomore at Westlake High School. He promotes education and outreach through his work at Thinkery. He enjoys writing and is determined to increase his knowledge throughout his high school and educational career. In his freetime, Shettigar enjoys walking through areas that are new to him to meet people that are unfamiliar to him. He seeks understanding of people in situations different from his and is excited to share his unique interest today at TEDxYouth@Austin.


Susannah Joffe

Local Singer-Songwriter

SUSANNAH JOFFE has grown up with music her entire life, having been raised in the live music capital of the world. Susannah began performing at the age of 9 and she soon took on her own style inspired by artists like Amy Winehouse, Patty Griffin, Nina Simone, and others. These artists have greatly influenced her and have helped shape her as an artist. Susannah Joffe has performed at many renowned venues in Austin, TX, including during SXSW, one of the largest music festivals in the US. Her songs are inspired by her own experiences and emotions as a young woman and are helping her continue her development as an artist and songwriter.


Zuby Onwuta

Founder of Think and Zoom

ZUBY ONWUTA is a legally blind innovator, disability advocate, and global speaker. Visual challenges ended his medical studies, US Army, and engineering careers. These hardships inspired him to invent “Think and Zoom”, a vision augmentation solution controlled by the human brain, to help people, like him, see better. Zuby is now the Founder of Think and Zoom, a startup that is "creating a world where visual impairment no longer steals dreams or kills careers."

big wy's_brass band

Big Wy's Brass Band

Local Brass Band

BIG WY'S BRASS BAND is mostly made up of undergrad UT students. Big Wy's sound is a unique combination of traditional New Orleans music and raw modern brass. The band is based out of Austin, TX and was started at Westlake High School. They have played various reputable venues in Austin such as Stubb's, the Mohawk, the Parish, Spiderhouse Cafe and Ballroom, Circuit of The America's, and SXSW! Last year, the band made their international debut at the International Jazz Festival in Guatemala. They look forward to expanding their name as a band and performing today at TEDxYouth!


Greg Bonetti

Philosopher of Gender

GREG BONETTI is a teacher and educator in Austin, TX. He did his undergraduate studies at New York University. He has also taught classes on literature and identity at UC Berkeley throughout his Ph.D. program there. Besides questioning the gender dynamics of everyday life, Mr. Bonetti enjoys running, paddle boarding, and speaking Italian around town. He feels incredibly lucky to teach the best students in the world, and he hopes that his talk today will spark lots of interesting discussions.


Saanya Bhargava

Environmental Activist

SAANYA BHARGAVA is junior at Westlake High School in Austin Texas. Saanya is a keen environmental activist and President and Founder of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance Chapter impact.gravitas, a youth organization focused on increasing awareness and developing collaborative solutions to the growing problem of plastic pollution. She is a youth ambassador for the Plastic Pollution Coalition and the Lonely Whale foundation and leads work in her community against the use of single-use plastics. She has also been involved with FIRST Robotics program since her freshman year and is currently the Outreach co-lead for her school’s varsity FRC Robotics team. She is on the executive committee of SACOT (STEM Advocacy Conference of Texas) with a mission to give high school students a voice in their STEM education through political advocacy. Saanya was invited to be a speaker at the Change Makers panel at SXSW in March 2017 and was recognized by Teen Vogue as a global 21 Under 21 in December 2017.


Ashish Gadnis

Founder of BanQU

ASHISH GADNIS is the Founder / CEO of the award winning blockchain application BanQu. BanQu is the first ever blockchain-based Supply Chain & Economic Identity platform and network that creates transparency, traceability and sustainability for farmers (especially women) living in extreme poverty and refugees across the globe. He is also a senior strategic advisor to multiple global organizations and the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda. Over the past 25 years, Ashish has been recognized for his private and public sector contributions with awards such as the MIT Innovate for Refugees (Syrian refugees) award, Young Global Leader (World Economic Forum), Minority Business Leader (Twin Cities Business), and 40 under 40 (Business Journal).

Check out our Xlabs

We’re changing things up this year and giving you two different experiences during our break:

  • Xperiences — each of you will receive a ticket for a 30 minute immersion in one of our uniquely designed work sessions; what you get will be a surprise (woot!), so don’t get stressed. Each group is small and the time will fly, so let yourself enjoy this special adventure with an artist, technologist, innovator, or entrepreneur.
  • Xchanges — this is where each of you will get to learn more about yourselves, each other, and the world around you by exchanging ideas. You will be put into groups with people you have (hopefully!) never met and will share your opinions on life, society, and the human condition. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but this is how change is made!

Special Thanks to our Partners

Cirrus Logic

to our In-Kind Sponsors

Cirrus Logic

to Capital Factory for allowing us to use their space for meetings

Capital Factory

to EANES ISD for allowing us to use their performing arts center for our event


And to our Circle of Champions

The Hao Family
Patricia Baumhart