Your guide to the 2015 JCPS IdeaFestival

Your guide to the 2015 JCPS IdeaFestival

JCPS hosted its second annual IdeaFestival, which aims to celebrate the creativity and innovation of JCPS students, at Gheens Academy on March 13. The festival was almost entirely student run and featured a number of keynote speakers, all of which were JCPS students, and many of which were from Manual. If you weren’t able to attend this year, here’s a recap of the show, billed this year with the ‘interconnectivity’ theme.

Central High School’s drum line started off the opening activities with a performance that was met with a standing ovation by the crowd of students.

Central High School Drum Line at 2015 IdeaFestival.

Mayor Greg Fischer made a brief appearance to kick off the festival with an endorsement of the IdeaFest team, saying that “IdeaFest represents the best of the young creative and innovative thinkers that this great city needs,” and went on to say that his major idea was to make Louisville into a more “compassionate community.”

Michael Perry, a 2012 Manual graduate, started the Idea Festival at Manual. The event expanded and grew to include all of JCPS. Photo by Margo Morton
Michael Perry, a 2012 Manual graduate, started the Idea Festival at Manual. The event expanded and grew to include all of JCPS. Photo by Margo Morton

Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens made the next appearance, explaining that the event originated as “Manual IdeaFest” before being rebranded as a district-wide festival.

Taylor Little (11, J&C) gave the first major presentation, arguing for a greater emphasis on African American history in standard US history courses.

“Not learning African American history made me afraid to be who I am. Because I never heard about the heritage of my people, I had assumed that we had none,” said Little.

She lamented the fact that because Manual’s African American history class occurred bi-yearly, she and others would be unable to take it. Little proposed that giving black people a more central focus in American history might help promote racial understanding and encouraged students to above all else, “learn about your history, and educate others.”

Next came Alex Krentsel (12, YPAS), who spoke on how innovations in wearable technology could impact Louisville. Among other devices, Alex spoke about Google Glass, and used a virtual reality device known as LEAP to interact with a 3-dimensional model of a heart, discussing the medical improvements it could yield.

“Doctors can see all sorts of relevant information about their patients, right at the fingertips. This could prevent a scenario where a doctor accidentally administers the wrong drug to a patient by allowing them instant access to all the patient’s known allergies,” Krentsel remarked. “Technology is moving at such a pace that an expert from 10 years ago could be totally lost in the world of today, making it easier for us to jump in and start learning.”

His advice for today’s high schoolers? Take a programming class.

Alex Krentsel at 2015 JCPS IdeaFestival.

Following Krentsel came an appearance from Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), who quipped, “Why don’t we just hand Congress over to these young people? I’m not kidding.” Yarmuth set the stage for the next speaker, Jacob Finke (11, HSU), who spoke on the corrupting influence of money on politics.

“Elections aren’t really won by popularity or policy, they’re won by spending, and Mitch McConnell almost doubled the expenses of Alison Lundergan Grimes in 2014,’ said Finke.

He offered Net Neutrality as a textbook example of how campaign donations can lead Congress to ignore the will of its constituents. Finke explained that over 80% of the American population approves of Net Neutrality, despite 31 senators who all received campaign donations from cable companies filing a bill against the FCC’s new Net Neutrality policy. Finke ended by urging students to join organizations like WolfPAC and that aim to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Local entrepreneur and Rooibee Red Tea CEO Heather Howell spoke next, showing promotional materials for her company. She spoke to students about entrepreneurship and ambition.

She was followed by Male high school’s “Bulldog Beats” a capella choir, who were also wildly popular with the audience and received a standing ovation.

The next presentation was “Globally Connecting Us To Refugees,” by Bersabeh Asefa, an Ethiopian refugee who arrived in the United States last July, and Shelby Allen, a freshman from Atherton who is involved with the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, tutoring a young boy from Burma among other activities and projects. Asefa told her story and spoke gravely about the state of Ethiopia.

“It’s the 21st century and Ethiopia is still lingering in poverty,” Asefa said. “There are many homeless in Ethiopia because the government is corrupt and does nothing to help them. It kills those who disagree.”

Fifty-five percent of Louisville’s incoming population is refugees, and Allen exhorted students to sponsor international assistance clubs at their schools to provide assistance to refugees. She explained that out of the 19 high schools in JCPS, only one has such a club.

Louisville is the 14th largest city for resettling refugees, and Allen stressed the importance of understanding their stories to better help them adjust and assimilate.

Allen also recalled her experience in a mock refugee camp and organizing one herself.

“Obviously, what I experienced doesn’t even compare to what most refugees go through, but it did teach me empathy with them,” Allen said.

The final presentation was “Failure: A Chance to Start Again” by PRP Creative, JCPS’s first student-run ad agency. Five Pleasure Ridge Park students who compose the group delivered a message of encouragement, asking students to redefine failure as “a chance to start again, a prerequisite to success.”

One of the presenters, Malik Alleyne-Jones, even joked, “There’s nothing wrong with failure, plenty of things can be failures. Maybe this speech is a failure. Who knows!”

The day’s activities concluded with a piano performance by Devon Moore (12, YPAS), a routine by the YPAS Dance department, and a farewell from the Student Leadership team responsible for organizing the IdeaFestival, made up of Adam Khayat (12, MST), Lekha Devara (12, MST), Emma Stephens (10, VA) and Erin Woggon (11, J&C).

Woggon ended IdeaFestival by asking the audience, “What’s your big idea?”

Devon Moore at 2015 IdeaFestival

*Correction, March 15, 2015: This article did not originally include coverage of Shelby Allen’s portion of the presentation. Her quotes and presented information were added. 

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