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2 Fraser Heights Secondary students selected to speak at TEDxSurrey

tedxsurrey-1.jpgFraser Heights Secondary students Muhaddisa Sarwari and Finn Liu have been selected to speak at TEDxSurrey in January.

Two students from Fraser Heights Secondary will take centre stage at TEDxSurrey in January, joining just 10 others selected to speak at the event.

Grade 12 student Muhaddisa Sarwari and Grade 11 student Finn Liu were among a dozen speakers chosen from more than 60 applications to participate in the fifth-annual TEDxSurrey, a forum for thought-provoking presentations related to technology, entertainment and design. Both students had seen TED Talks before, sometimes as class material, and said they heard about an opening for a Surrey student through posts online.

“My brother actually sent it to me, it was a Facebook post and I was really excited to see it,” said Sarwari. “You don’t usually see a lot of students presenting at events like TEDx.”

While 16 students applied for TEDxSurrey, only five were chosen to audition: Liu and Sarwari of Fraser Heights Secondary, Aarna Aurora from Frank Hurt Secondary, Airene Ahuja from Fleetwood Park Secondary, and Prabhleen Randawa of the STEAMx program at SAIL.

Liu and Sarwari both chose personal topics on which to present.

Sarwari shared her experience with prejudice as a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan while immigrating to Canada three years ago, in the hopes of encouraging global understanding between locals and immigrants.

“I noticed how little information or awareness a lot of young Canadians had about immigrants and refugees,” she said. “They don’t have a lot of information on the struggles and sacrifices that they make, so that inspired me to share with Canadians about what it’s like.”

Liu chose to present on the need for inclusion for Asian transgender-identifying individuals, after coming out to his family last year. He also noted a lack of Asian voices for trans identities in previous TED Talks and felt his experience would resonate with others.

“Gender identity isn’t usually discussed in the Asian community, especially with heavily traditional values and doing things like not being yourself to better your community or to hide your identity because you don’t want to bring shame on your family,” he said. “I thought it was very important to bring my own story to inspire others who might be in the same situation as me, but also those who might have negative connotations to actually see what it’s like in my shoes and recognize the importance of communicating these issues to achieve that inclusion.”

This year’s theme is “A shift in thinking,” and both students said they hope their talks will prompt attendees to reflect on their issues. They also hope the audience takes some value out of hearing student voices and how these issues affect younger generations.

“It’s important for them to hear a youthful or teenage perspective,” said Sarwari. “Usually TED Talk speakers are adults or experts and professionals, so it’s an eye-opening experience to see what young people of today have to say about their communities, their experiences and their personal lives.”

TEDxSurrey takes place Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, at the Bell Performing Arts Centre. For tickets or more information, visit'

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