West Kelowna  

Mount Boucherie student releases TEDxYouth talk on disorder she lives with

Student TED talk inspires

Mount Boucherie Secondary School student Alyssa Sundstrom knows what it's like to live with a rare auto-immune disorder, after being diagnosed with Behcet's disease when she was just a young toddler.

The disorder causes blood vessel inflammation throughout your body, leading to other symptoms such as eye inflammation, skin rashes and lesions. 

In Sundstrom's case, it led to chronic juvenile arthritis, and now she's channelled her experiences into a TEDxYouth talk, in the hopes she'll inspire others to push past adversity and take control of their goals.

"Around this time last year I started seeing posters from my school to do a TEDxYouth program that’s in Kelowna. At the time I hadn’t really had a lot of experience speaking or events or anything like that, but I was very interested in getting my story out and connecting and networking."

Sundstrom received her letter of acceptance in mid-December 2019, but just before they were ready to begin in spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

"We were about to write the whole thing and go for it right after spring break, that’s when everything got shut down and we had to put a pause on everything so that was a challenge.

"I still hadn’t accepted it [was happening] for myself, so it was just one of those things that just kept pushing and pushing the anxiety and adrenaline. I knew it was going to happen, I just could not physically picture it at that moment." 

However, by late August the TEDxYouth team came up with a way to conduct the talks in a COVID-19 friendly manner, and got back in contact with participants to schedule filming for mid-October.

Sundstrom, who was allowed six people to attend her presentation, invited her parents, younger brother, cousin and two best friends to watch.

She says the feedback she's received since the release of the talk has been overwhelmingly positive. 

"I've had nothing but positive feedback ... it’s very heartwarming to know people are taking that from my video and my words. 

"I want my name to be known and I want people to know my story. I’m very proud of where I’ve gotten and I know I’m going to be very proud of where I keep going, so I’m just very grateful I get to actually share my story and have my name out there."

If there's any advice Sundstrom could give youth considering applying for TEDxYouth, it would be to go for it. 

"Go for everything you can. Find every opportunity that comes your way and go for it. Don’t miss a beat and go for it. Some of them you’ll get, some of them you won’t and that’s just a part of life, but you’re going to grow from each rejection and you’re going to grow even more from each acceptance and each opportunity that you get."

To view the full TEDxYouth talk on YouTube, click here.

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