Aria Mia Loberti

URI Student Speaks at University Hosted TED Talk

At 11 years old, Aria Mia Loberti decided she would give a TED talk one day. That may seem like an unusual wish for such a young girl, but Loberti has never been ordinary.

Loberti attended a public elementary school that did not accept or accommodate her disability. Legally blind, Loberti said her experience with public schools was disappointing. Administrators did not allow her to use her cane, and students bullied her for being different. This lead to homeschooling, where she found a love for TED talks.

“I vividly remember at age 11, my mom trying to find a TED talk that would relate to whatever I was learning that day,” said Loberti. “We ended up watching numerous talks together.”

Now, thanks to the University of Rhode Island, Loberti has been granted her wish. A sophomore and triple major in communication studies, philosophy, and political science, Loberti graced the TED stage on Feb. 10, 2018, accompanied by her guide dog, Ingrid.

Her talk, “The Power of Solidarity and Silence,” goes beyond growing up with a disability. 

“The message I want to get across is that you need to be confident enough to stand up for yourself,” she said, “but also surround yourself with people who will support you.”

At first, Loberti felt there was no point in her auditioning for the talk, fearing that she would never get one of the 14 speaker positions. She met with coordinator, Paula McGlasson, to discuss the possibility of coaching the speakers instead.

“I figured at least this way I would be able to be a part of the event, even if I didn’t get to speak,” said Loberti.
McGlasson had other plans for Loberti: She told her to go to the auditions and try.

“I was fairly relaxed as I didn’t think of it as a real audition,” she said. “I didn’t think I had a chance. The next thing I know I had made it through to the next round and then the next round.”

Loberti said she was nervous about the talk but also excited. She is no stranger to public speaking. At age seven, she spoke in front of the Rhode Island State House and throughout her high school years she participated in “Ignite,” a miniature TED program.

Loberti and Ingrid led off the event, from 1 to 6 p.m., Feb. 10 in the Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences Building on URI’s Kingston campus. The event was sold out, but thankfully, Loberti received one complimentary ticket for her mother so they can share the experience.

“The talk is on my dad’s birthday so my mom told him to take the ticket,” said Loberti. “But he said my mom should be the one to see it–in person.”