Two years ago, at the inaugural TEDxFIU event, international relations major Philip Koenig asked the audience: “Can a 12-year-old be a leader?” With the right opportunities and training, the nonprofit he started in high school, Leading Miami, showed the answer to be a resounding yes.

Fast forward to today, when Leading Miami now has 50 mentors in seven middle schools in Miami. Koenig is a senior at FIU, graduating next May. In two weeks, he heads to Chicago, where the nonprofit is expected to launch its program early next year.  He is currently looking for the next executive director to carry the torch of Leading Miami while he continues with the organization as a board member. After graduation, Koenig hopes to work in management consulting and eventually plans to continue his education in business school.

philip koenig tedxfiu leading miami

Koenig remembers his TEDxFIU experience fondly. A pre-event pep talk from President Mark B. Rosenberg and his first practice talk with TEDxFIU organizers – “They just ripped my speech apart. …I learned so much from that.” – stand out in his memory, but it was a fellow speaker’s words that he refers to most often.

“I remember speaking to Dr. Pedro Greer, and I was very nervous,” says Koenig. “He simply said, ‘Just relax, smile and put your chest out, and people will love you.’ Simple advice, but it really helped. Every time I make a speech publicly, I think of his words of advice.”

Watch Koenig’s TEDxFIU 2012 talk: