The kinds of schools that encourage, above all else, spreading thought-provoking ideas are the kinds of schools that produce thought-provoking adults. Fortunately, Connecticut College falls into this category because of the kinds of discussions and real-world problems that are discussed across campus every single day. It was appropriate, then, that last weekend Conn hosted a TEDx event, which carried the theme of “What’s Past is Prologue.” Each speaker examined a certain moment or decision from his or her past and talked about how it has shaped their present.

Our own TEDx event introduced numerous wonderful speakers (including some Conn students) that all had some pretty important ideas to share. My favorite speaker, however, was a woman named Ella Dawson. Ella is a 23-year-old social media manager and sex writer who happens to have genital herpes. She has made it her mission to educate, well, pretty much everyone on why the stigma that surrounds herpes has to cease. Her talk was one I felt lucky to witness. Not only did Ella explain how she has made it an important part of her life to define what herpes really is and how common it can be to contract, but Ella also made it clear that contracting herpes should not be the be-all and end-all. A woman like Ella was a fantastic addition to this year’s TEDx. Her confidence and her motivation to break down the stigma that the world has placed on herpes was an inspiring kind of bravery to listen to.

Ella has been bashed on social media for speaking the truth about this incurable sexually transmitted disease, but she continues to push onward in an effort to help the world accept those who feel like acceptance isn’t possible. A hard-to-talk-about topic like herpes is too often misunderstood. Ella Dawson stood in front of an entire audience of Conn students, professors and members from outside of the school’s community and preached a story that gets easier for her each time she does. It's the story of how she has combatted society’s predetermined ideas and boxes of where she needed to be after becoming diagnosed with herpes.

The slogan for TED Talks goes as follows: Ideas worth spreading. Ella Dawson’s wonderfully enlightening story fell into the category of an “idea worth spreading,” as did every other talk that was presented at Conn’s TEDx event. Connecticut College values the exploration of concepts that can be hard to talk about. This past weekend, TEDx, exemplified something so quintessentially Conn: absorbing everything that is absorbable, because newly heard ideas then become newly formed knowledge and, of course, knowledge is power.