The TEDxSantaCruz crew. Photo: Daris Jasper

TEDxSantaCruz 2024

A Labor of Love

By Serena Ramirez, Community Engagement Intern

From the moment I joined the TEDxSantaCruz project as an intern, it was clear I was a part of something special. Backed by a wonderfully hardworking team and headlined by visionary local leaders, it had all the makings to be a transformative event—one that would deeply impact myself and all who would attend. My behind-the-scenes work included making graphics, sourcing vendors, and even providing logistical support to some speakers who eventually took the stage on April 13th. But nothing could have prepared me for the excellence and height of collaboration that transpired on the event day.

TEDx is part of a global program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. This year, the theme of TEDxSantaCruz was “Rising Together,” which promoted collaboration in solving social issues–such as climate change, poverty, educational inequities, and discrimination–that plague our society.

Paulina Moreno from Community Action Board was one of the attendees that braved the cold rainy day. Credit: Michael Cinque

The Whole Community Turned Out

The result of this labor of love was unbelievably inspirational and a testament to the diverse and culturally rich community that Santa Cruz County is. Event attendees included local high school and college students, nonprofit employees, family and friends of speakers, and community members from all walks of life. During breaks, the audience was abuzz, sharing their impressions of the talks and connecting about the ideas they’d heard. Inside the theater, the crowd laughed and clapped, wrote notes, and took to their feet in repeated standing ovations. There was a palpable mutual love of this place we call home. A crew of hardworking volunteers braving the unexpected cold and rainy day made sure that everything ran smoothly, attendees' needs were met, and every voice was heard thoughtfully.

Esabella Bonner, founder of Black Surf Santa Cruz and member of Rise Together, was one of the TEDxSantaCruz speakers. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout

Learning in Action

Among the 19 remarkable talks, a few resonated with me personally. Esabella Bonner’s Values as Verbs: How to Be About That Action spoke to the resilience of our community and the power of collective action. Her efforts to create a space for BIPOC individuals to enjoy the ocean, a resource they have been historically excluded from, are truly inspiring. I hope to take her same passion for action into my community organizing projects. Similarly, Luna HighJohn-Bey’s How to Follow a HUNCH shed light on the erasure of Black history in Santa Cruz County and her work to bring these untold stories to the forefront. Her role as a shrine keeper prompted me to view my surroundings with a more critical eye and to honor the legacies of those who came before us.

Community Foundation team members helped out on the volunteer crew. Sarah Sondossi, Engagement Coordinator and Serena Ramirez, Engagement Intern, at the registration table. Credit: Michael Cinque

Nothing is more satisfying than working behind the scenes on an event and seeing it coalesce into something so impactful. Working with the Community Foundation and TEDxSantaCruz has taught me how vital nonprofit work is in bringing people together. Through cultivating a culture of empathy and empowerment, our local nonprofits foster positive change that reverberates through every corner of our community.

Taking on “Rising Together” as a theme is no small task, especially considering the political polarity that divides us today. I was honored to participate in an event that sparked conversations, fostered new connections, and championed inclusivity in every aspect. “Rising Together,” in that sense, is not just a phrase but a practice we can implement to make tangible change–and TEDxSantaCruz provided us a roadmap of how to do it.

Serena Ramirez is a Community Engagement intern with Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, the presenting sponsor of TEDxSantaCruz’s 2024 event “Rising Together.” Serena’s internship is funded by The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz. Serena is an Intensive Psychology and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies major, minoring in Politics.

Learn about the spark of this year's TEDxSantaCruz - our Rise Together coalition for racial equity.

Learn more about Rise Together