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SJU senior hopes to give people a voice for phenomenal ideas

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October 9, 2017

By Mike Killeen, Photo by Tommy O'Laughlin '13

Sam LaBineWhen Sam LaBine graduates from Saint John’s University in May, he hopes to stay in the St. Cloud area.

That should come as no surprise to anyone. He grew up in St. Cloud, graduated from Cathedral High School in 2014 and is currently involved in an entrepreneurial start-up in the city.

But he has a long-range goal: Make St. Cloud a better place to live.

He’s taking one small step in that direction. LaBine is organizing TEDxStCloud on Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Paramount Theatre, St. Cloud.

LaBine, an accounting major, holds the local license for TEDx, which is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. These self-organized events are branded TEDx, where “x” designates an independently organized TED event.

A TEDx talk is a showcase for speakers presenting great, well-formed ideas in under 18 minutes. A well-formed idea can be something that is new and surprising, or a great basic idea with a compelling new argument behind it that challenges beliefs and perspectives.

“I’ve tried to make St. Cloud a little bit more of the community I want to live in,” said LaBine, who is co-chairing the event’s planning committee with Brian Hart of Sandler Training. “We talk a lot about the brain drain. We get students going directly down to the Twin Cities (following graduation), but what can we try to do to fix that?

“Part of that is imagining the community you want to live in. These are very small steps, but hopefully a bunch of small steps lead into something tangible.”

The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC) is one of the sponsors for the event. It’s an organization that LaBine has worked with for about four years, starting when he first pitched an idea of having a St. Cloud Startup Weekend (which was ultimately held Nov. 6-8, 2015, at SJU).

“As I was knocking on doors trying to fundraise for this event, I came across the GSDC, and they got behind the event right away. I realized that this was an organization that was actually really interested in making a positive impact on the community.

“I got engaged with that, and joined GSDC’s Innovation Board,” LaBine said. “We’re focused on trying to spur innovation and also highlight what is happening in our community.”

The event features four speakers, including College of Saint Benedict graduate Sally Koering Zimney ’99. It’s giving people a forum for hearing ideas, LaBine said. The event is sold out.

“I hope they come in with an open mind and realize there’s some phenomenal ideas in the community,” LaBine said. “Hopefully, they’ll feel inspired to share their ideas, or open themselves up to sharing ideas, and just making it so that St. Cloud is a place where you can have these great ideas and share them and build off each other.

“I don’t think there’s a great forum for that at the moment. We want to give people a voice, to share ideas and kind of inspire each other.”

The talks will include a realtor (David Vee), a competitive athlete (former Rocori High School and St. Cloud State athlete Kari Turkowski) and a Somali teacher (Ayan Omar). Zimney will comment on public speaking.

“I’m very proud of the four speakers we have for the first year, and I’m just excited we can share these ideas with the community,” LaBine said, noting that about 60 people applied to present their ideas.

All four speakers are receiving training from speaking and presentation coaches. “We want to make sure these speakers have the best possible opportunity to share their ideas in the best possible way,” he added.

LaBine said he’d love to make this a yearly event each fall in St. Cloud. He knows his educational background at CSB and SJU has helped.

“I think it has given me a platform to engage in what I want and how to do it,” LaBine said. “I feel confident in my ability to read and write, and it has given me this solid liberal arts education that you can do what you want to achieve.

“You have the tools in your toolbox to do those things, and I think it’s so grounding to work with them,” he said.  “The liberal arts education gives you the tools to do anything, and that provides so many opportunities”