Get to know the accomplished individuals who will present at the TEDxGreenville conference on April 8th! In this series, writer Jennifer Oladipo asks some compelling questions.
Rebecca Heiss moved to Greenville to help found NEXT High School. She envisions education for teens that encourages active pursuit of passions and ideas.
What was the last idea, big or small, that you thought was an idea worth sharing?
Spread happy. It’s a bit of a mantra for me. Share a smile, an ice cream cone, an unexpected phone call to an old friend, a laugh with a new friend. It seems like such a simple concept, and it is, but for whatever reason, we as a society sincerely struggle with it. Perhaps it’s because we are so desperately grasping at maintaining our own sense of happy. Our level of contentment is constantly measured against others in a relative battle of Facebook facades, and media masquerades. It’s my personal mission to end the comparison in my own life. I will be happy where I am. And for me, this is derived from sharing happiness.
What is your favorite TED talk and why?
This is an impossible question. My favorite TED talk is the one I’m about to hear. While the message is still completely unclear and I have that anticipation of learning something new and awesome and applicable. It’s the one that my Grandma sends that spurs cross-generational discussion and difficult conversations that we wouldn’t otherwise know how to begin.
My favorite TED is the one I watched in my pajamas that night when I never wanted to leave my bed and it moved me to get up the next day. The one my friend just sent me to better explain his emotions when his words were failing to convey all that he felt. The one where coming out to his family might be a curse worse than death. The one I sent to my extended family when a son overdosed on heroin and I wanted to express condolences, and offer insight into the mind of an addict to help overcome the grief and suffering.
My favorite TED makes me feel insignificant and powerful; makes me cry tears of happy, shame, sadness and pride; makes me ache with the beauty and horror of the world. My favorite TED talk will be one my student, my child, my next generation connection shares with the world long after I have left it.
What is the next frontier for the human race?
I’ll put myself out on a limb on this one and suggest that the new frontier for the human race is a movement away from belief in the supernatural and toward a more egalitarian existence with our Earth. We are the only species that has destroyed our own ecosystem in our conquests of greed. For what? To demonstrate power? Spread a particular brand of religion? I’m hopeful that in the near future we will begin to reconcile our place in this universe as far less unique and special than most of us currently care to admit. Our ancestors used gods to explain unknown phenomena like thunder and rain. As science has helped us to understand these mysteries the purpose of our gods have shifted to exploit divine power, and justify war and selfish desires. I hope for a brave new world of independent thinkers, and holistic eco-humanists that can drive us together to build a more balanced, rational and healthy future.
What were you passionate about when you were 11 years old?
I was in the 5th grade. My world was all about horses. I was convinced I was going to be an Olympic equestrian show jumper, even going so far as to write the Olympic Committee for tips towards my inevitable selection. Even at 11, though, I realized I might require a backup plan, so I decided to become a marine biologist. I studied the songs of the humpback and begged my parents for SCUBA lessons (a very practical skill for a middle class upstate New York kid).
I ended up working briefly on a Right Whale project at Cornell’s Bioacoustic Laboratory. I spent my days analyzing sounds collected from microphones on the ocean floor, straining to hear the soft, low “whoooooooop” of the Right Whale, and hating the screeching pods of passing dolphins. The 11 year old Rebecca would NOT have been pleased with the short marine biology career of my adult life.
For more information about Kaleidoscope speakers and performers, visit our 2016 presenter page, where extended bios are available. The April 8th event is sold out, but watch for details about our free live feed.