RICHMOND -- A group of Richmond High students took a page out of a popular online video series Friday evening to talk about the challenges and frustrations of growing up in a community where poverty and crime rates are higher than average.

The show, put on by students in the school's performing arts and multimedia academies, was based on the "TED Talks" program that has been streaming online since 2006.

Faculty sponsor Eugenia Ives said she had been listening to the series for some time in which well- and lesser-known speakers weigh in on global warming, the definition of happiness and other weighty matters.

She decided to use the format to allow the students to talk about meaningful lessons, pet peeves, personal challenges and anything else on their minds.

"We watched TED Talks and looked at the structure, at how they are written," Ives said. "It's all about talking about what you know and what you are passionate about."

About 85 of Ives' students developed 3- to 5-minute talks by choosing topics, writing and rewriting and finding visual aids.

For the final production, "RHS: Stories That Matter," 15 students were selected to weigh in on 18 subjects, ranging from what it is like having a brother in prison to the role of poetry in calming the anxious mind to why video games are educational rather than time wasters.

Several broader topics, such as racial prejudice, violence, and being misunderstood by parents and other adults came up in many of the monologues.


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Eleventh-grader Jamey Williams led off with a talk about the role of music in his life, referencing the generation gap along the way.

He said he first became aware of music when it "boomed through my father's speakers," but he prefers an iPod when the world gets too much so he can "put on my head phones and isolate."

Luz Chico, in a talk presented by Adolphus Bracy, described being bullied in elementary school, saying it destroyed the experience for him.

"Just because you call somebody fat or ugly doesn't make you any prettier or more handsome," Chico wrote.

Senior Andrew Bienh talked about visiting his brother who is incarcerated.

While it is painful to see him there, Bienh confessed his belief that "(He) would be dead if he were not in jail."

Another senio described living with her father's alcoholism and resulting kidney disease, saying, "He pushes himself out of our lives in order to drink."

"Addiction doesn't have a happy ending," she concluded.

On a happier note, the girl returned with a second monologue about dancing and music.

"Dancing makes me feel like somebody," she said. "I was born from a boom box."

Ives, who is in her first year at Richmond High after a career as a live theater and film director, said she came up with the TED Talks unit because she was impressed by "the power of her students' stories."

"They're sharing such amazing stories and bringing positives to Richmond (in the process)," she said.

"RHS: Stories That Matter" was the performing arts academy's first semester production. For the second semester, Ives said she is planning to lead the students in a completely different direction: an updated version of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest."

"It's very challenging," she said. "I love my students."