High-schooler set for TEDx stage

Chaminade Julienne junior Brennan Harlow, shown presenting at a TEDXYouth event in March; On Friday, Oct. 20, he’ll be presenting his talk at TEDxDayton. CONTRIBUTED

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Chaminade Julienne junior Brennan Harlow, shown presenting at a TEDXYouth event in March; On Friday, Oct. 20, he’ll be presenting his talk at TEDxDayton. CONTRIBUTED

CJ junior to talk on how addiction tears at families.

Chaminade Julienne High School junior Brennan Harlow had watched TEDx talks online throughout high school, and when he got the chance to present his own talk to TEDxYouth, he took it and was one of 11 young people selected for the 2017 youth event.

Friday, Oct. 20, as the one TEDxYouth speaker to present at TEDxDayton, he’ll share his talk in the all-day annual event at the Victoria Theatre.

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A performing arts major at CJ in Dayton, Harlow learned about the youth program through a teacher. “I love getting up and talking in front of an audience, but wondered what I’d do it about,” said the Dayton resident.

“Then, in health class, when the teacher was talking about addiction and saying stuff like ‘You go through withdrawal, you go through this and that,’ I thought ‘No, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the spiraling effect it has on everyone around you,’ and that became my topic.”

Harlow had experienced firsthand the effects of addiction on his family, living through years of upheaval due tothe heroin addiction of a member of his extended family.

“My parents had tried to help him, but his friend stole from my mom, and so she kept us separated from that side of the family due to drug use. All I remember of him was his being passed out on the couch from taking something, but I didn’t know and thought he was just tired from work — but he didn’t have a job.

“Whenever he wouldn’t wake up, his two daughters would get scared and walk to our grandparents’ house, once in the middle of the night when they were just three and five.”

Brennan’s mother took in the girls during the relative’s stint in jail and later, when he died from what was believed to be an overdose, gained custody. Brennan’s family expanded from three children to five when he was 12.

In addition to that change in his life, “We were shunned from family events because the other side of the family thought we were trying to take the kids from them, even though the grandparents had told my mom they couldn’t be ‘parents’ to the girls. Our family was in upheaval.”

Having been though such a struggle, Harlow knew firsthand that addiction wasn’t just about the addict but the family, as well. “Addiction happens gradually, with a ripple effect that turns into waves, and the addict’s actions affect everyone and everything down the line.”

This was the message that Harlow wanted to share with others. “I wrote down my idea of how drugs affect the family and submitted it; a few weeks later, I got an email that I’d been selected for audition.

“It was a mini-speech, and when I was done, there was silence.” He was one of 11 youth out of 60 entrants selected to present at TEDxYouth in March, after many re-writes, revisions and rehearsals.

“Each year, one of the youth presenters is selected for TEDxDayton, and I was surprised to be the one chosen this year,” he said.

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More rehearsals, more revisions, criticism, developing, fine-tuning and memorizing. “The stage is my home, which is a huge advantage, since it’s a foreign experience for many to be onstage in front of so many people.”

After his TEDxYouth talk was available to the public, it upset members of the estranged family, “but it’s been a healing process for me,” said the 17-year-old. “Teachers and friends came to me and said it helped them to better understand the effects of addiction. That was my point, and trying to reach out and help kids in that situation, convincing them they’re not alone.”

Although Friday's daylong TEDxDayton annual event is sold out and there's a waiting list, Harlow encourages others to watch the talks, available on the TEDxDayton website. "The ideas are worth spreading to help our community. Our world's continuing to change and we're the force to change it for the better."

Contact this contributing writer at virgburroughs@gmail.com.

Speakers for 2018

How to apply: Young people can still apply for the 2018 TEDxYouth event through Nov. 15. To fill out an application, get tickets and to learn more about TEDxDayton and hear talks from previous years, go to the website, tedxdayton.com.

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