Lily Tai moved to Ann Arbor from Taiwan when she was in the eighth grade and says “my English isn’t perfect.” But what is perfect is how a young lady moved to a foreign country and a new way of life and turned opportunity into friendships, dreams and a bright future.
Now a senior, Tai walked into the halls of Skyline High School almost four years ago and took advantage of many of the great clubs and organization the school offers beyond the normal full day of classes. She joined the Skyline Cooking Club and is now the group’s president. She joined the Skyline Exchange Student Club and is now the group’s co-president. She also is involved in the Skyline Film Club.
And during her freshman year, Tai joined TedX, a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.
“I volunteered in my freshman year because my sister did it the year before,” says Tai. “During the volunteering, I fell in love with the event set-up, and all the decorations and organizing was amazing. So when I got the email asking if anyone would be interested in being an organizer I signed up for it.”
TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world and Skyline hosted its annual TEDxYouth@AnnArbor conference in March. The event gives a voice to the future with high school students speaking about a number of different topics and sharing their ideas, dreams and goals.
Tai wanted to be involved. Even if it wasn’t easy, it was certainly fulfilling.
“Being an organizer was a lot harder than I originally imagined,” said Tai, who was the head of the hospitality committee during this year’s event. “There is a lot of work to do to prepare for this one-day event. The hospitality committee is in charge of everything outside of the auditorium. Since we provide food for the entire event, we need to contact businesses for donations, discounts, as well as monetary support. We also do the decorations and prepare the common area so the audience has something to do during the breaks.”
Tai was quite pleased with the success of this year’s event. Her three years of experience helped prepare her for any challenges that came her way before and during the event.
“It went really well and smooth,” she said. “Even though we didn’t get as much funding as previous years, we made it work. We had more than enough food and nice decorations thanks to our sponsors.”
Tai’s involvement at the many clubs at Skyline has led her to the starting line of the next chapter in her life. School is supposed to prepare you for the future and Skyline did exactly that for the young girl who just a few years earlier had moved to Ann Arbor from Taiwan.
“TEDx definitely prepared me for college,” she says. “I’m planning on majoring in Hospitality Management or Marketing in college. As an organizer in hospitality in the past three years, I real-life experiences in writing business letters, contacting and reaching out to the company managers, and the importance of building relations.”
She already sounds like someone in the hospitality and marketing field – in fact, she speaks the language perfectly.
“We worked with many businesses for three years in a row like Starbucks and Cherry Republic, and it gets easier to get donations every year because we’ve built those good relationships with them.
“TEDx also helped me become a better leader. Having my own business has always been my dream and having leadership skills is very important. I wasn’t a good leader and I still need to keep improving. It’s not easy to be a good leader. I want to be someone who is friendly and easy going but also someone who people respect and will listen to you.”
Sounds like the perfect plan.