Alex Knott has overcome stuttering and shyness to speak out — in front of a crowd at a TEDx event, no less — about water issues in remote First Nations communities.

The young man from Teulon, Man., was one of about a dozen young speakers and performers at a TEDxYouth@FortGarry event in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

The theme of this year's event was Transformers, and Knott embodies that theme, changing from a shy, quiet teen to a public speaker, saxophone player and traditional hoop dancer.

Knott said when he was younger, he just didn't talk.

"Most of my friends would talk for me because [I was] just too afraid and nervous to speak in front of an entire group," he told CBC News before hitting the stage at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

His mentor, Siobhan Faulkner, said it was when Knott learned about First Nations rights and treaties that he felt something was wrong — and he wanted to talk about it.

"It's what you dream about as a teacher, to watch kids with passion find a voice and be able to share that voice," she said.

Knott spoke to the crowd of young people about the lack of running water in St. Theresa Point, Man., where his relatives live.

"These people are living in Third World conditions in a First World country. That's kind of a bit sad," he said.

Teens who attended the TEDxYouth@FortGarry event say seeing Knott and other young people on stage makes them realize they can have and share their own opinions.

"It's good to know that there are other people who feel strongly about issues that I also feel strongly about," said Micayla McNaughtan, a student at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate in Winnipeg.