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TEDxConcordiaUPortland - Jenn Cohen - The Circus Project: Getting Youth off the Ground

If you've ever seen a circus, you know that the body is a strong and pliant thing. Performers push themselves to do things that stretch the limits of possibility until you're left to wonder whether what you've seen was actually magic. Starting at a young age, Jenn Cohen, director and founder of the Circus Project, was fascinated with this magic. She's studied the art of circus and has been a circus performer and coach for over 20 years. What she loves most is the potential of circus, that it's an open form. "Circus is about embracing the totality of who we are and bringing it forward in a way that makes it beautiful and magical and celebrates it" she said recently. Cohen began the Circus Project in Portland in 2008 as a way to harness this magic and potential so she could share it with the community, especially homeless and at-risk youth. She has a master's degree in Process Oriented Psychology and through circus, counseling, personal-development, work study, and very high expectations, the lives of these youths end up transformed. Like many big cities, Portland has a large homeless population, many of whom are young adults and teens. They exist on the fringes of society, but that's exactly why the circus makes sense. People have always run away to join the circus and what they find is a family of like-minded individuals on the margins. They end up finding each other, but they also end up finding themselves. Cohen describes herself as a big dreamer who's always looking to be more present in her life. She's grateful that she's been able to do work that's so close to her heart. "My hope is to continue on the path I'm on but with more presence, more patience, more love. More and more, I realize it's not what I do, but how I do things that's important." In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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