HHS sophomore selected to deliver TED Talk

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Siena Harrigan

Harrigan to discuss experience teaching girls in Africa

A Hopkinton High School sophomore will be sharing some important lessons she learned about facing adversity and the value of an education, lessons she learned 4,000 miles away from home.

Siena Harrigan will be one of the speakers at the TedX Youth event at Concord-Carlisle High School on March 2. Harrigan will be speaking about her trip to Gambia, West Africa, which she made with her family in August of 2018 to volunteer at an all-girls school.

“We have a lot to learn from the girls there,” Harrigan said.“They put a high value on education. They get really excited and eager to go to school; that is something that you don’t see here in the United States.”

Harrigan, along with her parents, Brian and Laura, and her 14-year-old sister, Bailey, spent more than two weeks in Africa teaching and taking classes while getting to know the girls and their culture. While her father, a teacher at Natick High School, taught classes in civics and her mother taught classes in landscape design and gardening, Siena taught the girls about one of the great American pastimes — softball.

“I taught softball clinics every day for over 100 girls,” said Harrigan, who plays the sport for the Hillers. “We would walk down the street to a field every day to play.”

After sharing her experience with the faculty at HHS, Harrigan decided to apply to be one of 20 teenage speakers at the annual “Young People, Making a Difference, Right Now” TedX Youth event. After being chosen from more than 50 applicants, Harrigan got to work perfecting her speech for the event, which will draw hundreds from all over the state.

“She is so diligent,” said HHS world language teacher Laura Theis, who is helping coach Harrigan for her presentation. “I know Siena from the ambassadors club. She became involved last year as a freshman and really jumped into it. … It’s obvious to anyone around her that she really values international education.”

One of the reasons Harrigan values international education so highly is the many lessons that the girls in Africa taught her.

“Unconditional love and respect,” she said. “That was one of the main things I saw in the school there.”

Another value that Harrigan saw in Africa that she feels will be a benefit to people in America is the value of perseverance.

“I was amazed at how these girls responded to adversity; they have gone through a lot to get an education,” she said. “They have the mentality that they can achieve more and keep going. If we had that mentality here, people would be able to handle challenges better and keep going forward to improve their circumstances.”

Anyone can hear Harrigan’s presentation, along with those from other students looking to “make a difference,” on March 2 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Concord-Carlisle High School.

The event is free and open to the public.