What do a “creativepreneur,” Miss New York High School America and a professional dance artist have in common? All three will share the stage on March 27, at SUNY Buffalo State, for this year’s [email protected] conference entitled “Imagine That.” The conference, an independent TED style event, is the first of its kind in Western New York to focus on the needs of a young adult audience. “Imagine That,” will feature seven amateur speakers including Fatoumata Barry, a student at SUNY Buffalo State, Marivi Howell-Azra, a three time pageant winner and Jimmy “BigRook” Hawkins, Jr. a professional freestyle dancer.

Barry, an immigrant from Guinea and current student at SUNY Buffalo State will speak on “The Unconventional Gift,” a topic that encourages young adults to focus on the beauty of living outside of the box while working to embrace all the quirks and “special gifts” that make us unique.
Howell-Azra, [email protected]’s youngest speaker at 16-years of age, current reigning Miss New York High School America and student at Buffalo Seminary High School will speak on “Confidence is the Key: Unlocking the Door to Your Dreams.” Her speech will examine the stages of life and how self-esteem and optimism change over time.

“BigRook” Hawkins, a professional dance artist and youth advocate, whose work has been featured in music videos and commercials nationally, will offer a speech and performance entitled “Breaking Down Barriers.” His performance will provide an introspective on how dance can be utilized as an outlet for those who have trouble expressing themselves conventionally, while working to eliminate judgment.

This year’s [email protected] conference will also feature Tracy Jordan-Cardwell, Public Affairs Manager and Producer and Host of LP Ciminelli’s “Making It Happen,” as this year’s host. Well known for her work amongst Buffalo Public Schools and throughout the community, Jordan-Cardwell’s involvement makes an impactful addition to this year’s youth centered conference.

“There’s no better way to empower our youth than to give them a stage to shine,” said Jordan-Cardwell.

“As emcee for this year’s [email protected] conference, I am excited to help showcase the creative and amazing talent that lies within our community.”

Organizers of this year’s conference, along with their community partners, the YWCA of WNY are overwhelmed with the positive support that this year’s conference is receiving from the Western New York community.

“We are very proud to be able to work to organize WNY’s most dynamic young minds through such a unique and well established forum,” said Christina M. Lopez, Organizer and Chair of this year’s “Imagine That,” [email protected] conference. “From the beginning, our committee has been dedicated to creating an incredible event that both showcases and provides our community’s youth with a toolkit of ideas that can move and inspire change and I am confident that we have achieved that.”

“Our commitment to education and job readiness for at-risk youth is symbiotic with this forum. We are pleased to be able to partner with [email protected] in bringing this opportunity forward and hope that it inspires all who attend,” said Deborah Lynn Williams, CEO, YWCA of WNY

Seats are still available for the March 27, “Imagine That,” [email protected] conference that will take place on the stage of Mildred Campbell Social Hall, on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State. This event is free and open to the public, seats are limited and preference is given to high school and college students. The conference will also be live streamed via the website and at satellite venues. Those interested in attending can apply or learn more online at www.tedxyouthbuffalo.com. Educators and community organizations interested in attending with groups should contact Melissa Carlson by phone at 716.525.7923 or by email at [email protected] for more information.