Noah Schultz: Incarcerated at 17, writer and poet at 18, TEDx speaker at 23

By Laura Fosmire, September 11, 2015

Noah Schultz

Noah Schultz

Try to describe Noah Schultz in just a few words and you can’t help but slip in a few tantalizing details.

He’s a writer and a poet. He has major dreams for Oregon and for himself. For the past several years, he’s been incarcerated at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility. Currently at a work study transition program in Florence, he’ll be temporarily released just in time to join our roster of speakers at TEDxSalem.

But since he has such a way with words, we thought we would let him do the introducing.

How did you come to learn about TEDxSalem? What made you want to get involved?

I was discussing my goal of speaking at a TED event with a friend of mine when she mentioned knowing some of the organizers. I got very excited and asked her if she would be able to connect me with them. TED provides the platform to deliver hope through a positive message, or new idea. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Tell me a little more about the subject of your TED talk.

My talk is an infusion of poetry, my life story and the wisdom I have learned from the experience of being incarcerated at an early age. I want people to walk away from this talk ready to take on the thing they have pushed to the side. Humans are meant to persist, survive and reach unimaginable levels of excellence. I hope this talk stokes the inner fire inside of them.

You’re a talented writer, and your work has been showcased online. What originally got you into writing?

Thank you, I feel very blessed to have been well received in that area.

When I was 18, I signed up for a group called Write Around Portland. This is a nonprofit located out of Portland who was offering their services to MYCF (MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility).

This was where I was exposed to creative writing. We were given journals and spent two hour sessions writing to prompts and sharing with others in the group. In this class, I felt like what I had to say mattered. The feeling writing gave me was like no other. This was the one place I could escape to. It was and is my therapy.

Can you talk more about the experience of being incarcerated at 17?

There is a lot I can say about that experience. I am going to save that for the talk. To be incredibly brief, I can say that this has been something that has altered my life path forever.

What would you most want people to know about you?

I would want people to know that I care about them, off the bat. I believe that we are all connected through the beauty of life. Each one of us makes up a piece of something bigger. That way of thinking consistently influences each of my interactions.

I would also want to let them know that I am a very ambitious individual who is focused on making a positive impact on the planet Earth before leaving it.

What are your plans for the future?

When asked this question my brain usually goes into a state overload. I have so many ideas with written plans of action ready for implementation upon my release.

I am an aspiring social entrepreneur who is passionate about the eradication of poverty, human trafficking and environmental issues. At this moment, I am working on developing and launching a Kombucha business and publishing my first book.

See Schultz and others speak at TEDxSalem Oct. 3.

The all-day event is $40 for students and $50 for the general public and includes talks, entertainment, participation in recess breaks, hands-on activities between sessions, plus food throughout the day (breakfast, coffee/tea/water, snacks and lunch), a gift bag and a few other goodies. Find your tickets here.