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Jack Rodenburg likes eating foods others consider “weeds.”

He’ll pick leafy lamb’s quarter and onion stalks from his yard, a wealth of edible weeds and crops, and stir-fry them with garlic and potatoes.

“I usually get some sort of base going first, potatoes are good,” he said. “Then when everything’s about where I want to be, I cover the entire pan with lamb’s quarter or linden (tree) leaves.”

Rodenburg says lamb’s quarter tastes like spinach and has a ton of nutrients. But you don’t have to just take his word for it: he’ll be sharing his unconventional culinary creations at the TEDxYouth event at Lincoln High School on Aug. 11.

This is the fourth year of TEDxYouth@Lincoln, an independently organized TED Talk, said co-curator Shaun Harner. Nearly every high school is represented this year, along with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The idea behind dedicating an event to Lincoln’s youth is to give students from middle school to post-college age the chance to build skills, Harner said.

“The kids are an integral part of it — they’re learning skills and kind of getting themselves to be the organizers,” she said. “I go to every meeting and I guide them, but they really do most of the work.”

After students are selected, most teams are comprised of an organizer and student and handle different aspects of the show.

Harner said the organizers try to select a variety of presentations: topics that will present unorthodox solutions, share life experiences, highlight artistic talent and prompt self-actualization.

This year, the ideas are the strongest of any group she’s worked with — so strong that winnowing the 60 applicants to 10 presenters and three talent acts was a challenge, Harner said.

The talks intersect and diverge in interesting ways, grounded in this year’s theme of EDGE: Explore, Discover, Grow, Engage. Topics this year range from the sexism of clothing pockets to fighting light pollution with night photography.

In the months since presenters were chosen in April, the students have been writing and perfecting their 10-minute speeches, a process that involves one-on-one coaching with TEDx mentors.

The presenters also met at Firespring on July 22 to practice their speeches and gain feedback. In an orange-walled room with sleek furniture, students and coaches provided thoughtful compliments and critiques for each presentation.

Crystal Xu, a Lincoln East High School senior, presented “Not silent but still deadly,” a speech about the issue of cow burps releasing methane gas, and her work with the UNL International Genetically Engineered Machines team to propose solutions.

After her speech, many of the students commented on how she had made the topic fun and accessible, even for those who weren’t science fans.

Xu said being a part of the event has improved her presentation skills, and it’s exciting being with the other TEDxYouth students.

“I was nervous, because I haven’t done much public speaking, but everyone’s really nice and the coaches are really helpful,” she said. “It’s really fun, because everyone else is around my age and they have such cool ideas too.”

Now that the students have had a chance to run through the program, they'll put the finishing touches on their speeches and do other preparations for the event.

The TEDxYouth Lincoln event will feature interactive booths during a midday break. The booths will connect to presentations, as well as provide fun activities, Harner said.

Rodenburg encourages attendees to stop by his stir-fried weeds booth, and said his unusual solution could help at least three problems he sees among his peers.

“All my friends are poor and hate mowing and probably don’t eat enough vegetables — I might be able to solve all those problems for you,” he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or ecase@journalstar.com

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City desk intern

Summer 2018 city desk intern for the Journal Star.

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