Olivia Cotton '23 Illumin8's Self Love at TEDxYouth@Dayton

The theme for this year’s TEDxYouth@Dayton conference was “Illumin8” and it was a perfect fit for Chaminade Julienne senior Olivia Cotton.

“I felt like my talk about self-love and finding the light in oneself fit the theme
well,” Cotton ’23 said. “Throughout the application process I came up with a metaphor that
referred to three stages of life as light. I proposed this metaphor in my first interview and the
team leaders loved it.”

Cotton was selected as one of 10 presenters for the eighth annual TEDxYouth@Dayton
conference on March 16 at the Dayton Art Institute’s Rose Auditorium. In addition to the
engaging speakers, the event included a special art exhibit displaying the work of young people
from across the Miami Valley. The Eagles senior didn’t have to go it alone as she brought Vega –
the CJ a cappella group she is a member of – with her to perform during the presentation.

“The experience overall was lovely,” Cotton said. “I was worried at first about what other
people would think and sometimes, if I didn't make as much progress as I had hoped in between
meetings, I was afraid I wouldn't get my talk to where I knew it could be. But after talking with
my mentor and overcoming the fears and working that much harder I was left happier than I
could ever have imagined with my talk.”

The talk itself was rooted in Cotton’s CJ experience. In fact, her first application was inspired by her work preparing to lead her senior retreat, Kairos – focusing on self-love and positivity.

“During the time I spent preparing to lead Kairos I became even more passionate about the topic of self-love and positivity,” Cotton said. “I am very passionate about helping others and getting to do that on a
larger scale and incorporate creative pieces I have been working on was a dream come true as a
writer and speaker.”

That’s not to say the process was quick or easy as the preparation included multiple
meetings and revisions. But the time spent with the adult mentors was invaluable for Cotton.

“We debated my ideas and lengthy proposals and I got to hear input and opinions from
the table of adults,” Cotton said. “After hearing their feedback, they gave me guidance and
advice on what would make the strongest talk and where I could insert my ideas and which ideas
might be better to save for another talk. I got to learn the strengths of a good talk and how the
most successful talks keep attention, and I was able to use that information to narrow down my
points and focus on specific ideas.”

The lessons learned from the experience will be meaningful long after she graduates from
CJ next month.

“The challenging part for me was accepting that I cannot control what other people think
and being okay if not everyone liked my talk because, at the end of the day, the point of my talk
was to help others.”