Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and the New York Times Bestselling author of 24 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Pasaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. Some of his other works include picture books, ANIMAL ARC and SURF'S UP; novels BOOKED, THE PLAYBOOK, HE SAID SHE SAID and the forthcoming SOLO.
Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at schools and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love: Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, and recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s Inaugural Dorothy M. Carter writer-in-residence. The Kwame Alexander Papers, a collection of his writings, correspondence, and other professional and personal documents is held at the George Washington University Gelman Library. Visit him at KwameAlexander.com.
Antionette is the founder and executive director of Creative Reaction Lab, a social impact design collaborative whose mission is to challenge global issues through creative problem solving. Throughout her career, Antionette has worked for non-profits working for social justice, human rights, and diversity and inclusion. These experiences led to her background as a social entrepreneur, non-profit leader, and design activist. Antionette's personal mission in life is to CHALLENGE standards, make CHANGE, and CHAMPION approaches resulting in foundational and community impact.
Also, Antionette is an active community volunteer. Antionette was named the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force of AIGA: The Professional Association of Design in 2014. At the local level, she is currently serving as the Incoming President. Antionette also sits on several awards and programming committees for local and national non-profits.
Peter Douskalis is a musician and educator that performs and records professionally as well as teaches music in the New York City Department of Education. He is author of the Hal Leonard Essential Elements for Guitar series book “Multicultural Songs”. He has published his philosophy on multicultural music education curriculum design in the 30th World Conference Proceedings of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) and has further presented his philosophies at TEDxHerndon and the 32nd ISME World Conference. He currently performs in New York City, primarily working as Assistant Director and Guitarist for Pericles Kanaris and Synolon. He was also previously the President of the New York City Chapter of the charity Guitars Not Guns and also currently partakes in Olympism For Humanity Alliance, Inc. projects. His solo jazz guitar CD “The Dance of the Sea” has received national and international acclaim in Just Jazz Guitar Magazine, Los Angeles Jazz Scene, Jazz Journal (UK), and Cadence Magazine.
A true native of Northern Virginia. Connor was born in Fairfax, Virginia and lived the first year of his life in Herndon, before moving to Manassas. He attended Linton Hall School in Bristow, Virginia and went to Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington before leaving for Virginia Tech to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering. Now Native to Tyson’s Corner, Connor works full time at the NIH as Biologist/Geneticist scouring the human genome for indicators of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. He splits his free time between study world music, principally of the Irish Traditional variety, on guitar, mandolin, and accordion, and coaching Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting at Crossfit Fairfax.
Poet Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on June 7, 1943. Although she grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, she and her sister returned to Knoxville each summer to visit their grandparents. Nikki graduated with honors in history from her grandfather's alma mater, Fisk University. Since 1987, she has been on the faculty at Virginia Tech, where she is a University Distinguished Professor.
A South Side Chicago native, a business professional, and catalyst for social entrepreneurship, Diamond Greer creates people-centered solutions for organizations and individual visionaries across sectors and passions. She is a People & Design Strategist and the Co-Founder of Let’s Vibe L3C. Diamond dedicates her time customizing inclusive experiences driven by intention and resulting in meaningful impact. Her other hobbies consist of unlocking the value of those around her and writing poetry. She is a fellow of StartingBloc (DC ’15), New Leaders Council Chicago (’16), Chicago Global Shapers (’16), and Chicago Innovation Awards Women’s Mentoring Co-op (’17).
Diamond completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University.
Meredith Keppel's passion for environmental science began one summer in southern Virginia at Nature Camp. Here she discovered a passion for nature and fungi that led her to spend a semester of her sophomore year in Maine at an intensive all-girls school for marine science. While there she conducted research on population genetics of a paralytic phytoplankton for the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Meredith has also volunteered with numerous local organizations including Loudoun Habitat for Humanity, Herndon Environmental Network, Runnymeade Park, and Goose Creek Association. Additionally, she has spoken on the subject of fungi at many local garden clubs and was the speaker for last January's Green Breakfast, hosted by the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. Her future plans include studies in environmental science and sustainability.
Bilal Khan has spent last decade participating, promoting and advocating for educational and cultural exchanges between the world and the USA. He believes that his one year in town of Herndon as an exchange student from Pakistan, served as a foundation of his outstanding ventures; focusing on socio-political anti-violence campaigns, entrepreneurial success, and community fundraisingfor youth in developing countries of Southeast Asia, Middle East and Eastern Europe. As a global-ready young professional, Bilal has shared his life's story and impact of cultural exchanges with over 15,000 teenagers and adults, inspiring and training them on social media activism, personal luck and happiness, and self-confidence building. Bilal has used his social media enthusiasm to raise funds for students, families, and patients. Prior to moving back to Herndon, Bilal worked as a mentor with expertise Pakistan sign language for deaf exchange students. Currently, Bilal works with The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Alumni program. Bilal considers Herndon his home, and in his free time, he photographs people and their events for free as part of his side project on people and places in Washington, DC.
Kavya Kopparapu is the Founder and CEO of GirlsComputingLeague and current junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She is dedicated to sharing her passion for computer science with others, especially young girls, as the field has given her a world of opportunity, and has been recognized by organizations such as the White House and the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT).
Her journey with computer science began in elementary school, when she was introduced to the Scratch programming language and developed robots using the Mindstorms programming language. Her interests were further strengthened when she took AP Computer Science in freshman year, followed by classes like Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision.
Crys Matthews blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies and punctuated by honest, original lyrics. Having been compared to everyone from Toshi Reagon to Tracy Chapman to Ruthie Foster, Matthews’ eclectic infusion of genres has won her honorable mentions at the 2013 and 2014 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and extensive radio play from Woman of Substance radio to WTJU-Charlottesville and WMRA-Harrisonburg to KBOO-Portland.
A prolific lyricist and composer, Matthews has found inspiration in her surroundings; from driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the compelling and heart-breaking love story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Thoughtful, realistic and emotional, Matthews’ songs speak to the voice of our generation and remind us why music indeed soothes the soul.
Chris Melissinos is the former Chief Gaming Officer and Chief Evangelist for Sun Microsystems, Inc., and served as the Guest Curator and creator of "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He currently serves as the Director of Corporate Strategy for Media and Entertainment at Verizon. A highly regarded speaker, Melissinos is an authority on the intersection of technology and popular culture, trends in future technology application, and the impact of technology and new media in an increasingly connected world.
During his career, Melissinos has contributed to and led the development of several technologies, including Java technology focused on media and entertainment industries, mobile technologies, and server technologies for massively connected, global experiences. His expertise in technology adoption, social platforms, developer communities, and impact of technology as a change agent has made him a sought-after speaker around the world.
The record setting "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, was created and led by Melissinos. The first video game art exhibition of its kind, "The Art of Video Games" explored the 40 year evolution of video games as an art form and examined the impact of video games on American culture. Since its opening in 2012, the exhibition has traveled to 10 additional museums across the country and ended its historic run at the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in April, 2016. For his work and his role as a strong and passionate advocate for video games as an important part of global culture, he was awarded the "Ambassador Award" at the 2013 Game Developers Choice Awards, held during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, CA.
Jonathan Mills is a Visiting Assistant Professor and the Social Impact Coordinator in the Multi-Disciplinary Design program at the University of Utah. He teaches courses across the curriculum including skill-based and foundational design courses, and upper-level studios focusing on social impact design and community-based design projects. Local partners for these projects include the United States Forest Service, University of Utah Health Care AirMed medical transport, and the Trans-Jordan Landfill.
Jonathan is also a member of the inaugural class of the Autodesk Faculty Fellow program, which seeks to enable faculty across the globe with resources to enhance classroom teaching and learning experiences.
Previously, Jonathan was the Program Coordinator for the Industrial + Interaction Design Program at Syracuse University, where his studio teaching focused on public outreach collaboration with co-design project partners including VA Justice Outreach, ARISE Child + Family Services, WelchAllyn Healthcare, non-profit water accessibility groups in Eastern Africa, and K-12 sustainable energy education organizations in Washington, D.C. Jonathan’s design education approach challenges students to learn through direct engagement in large and complex social matters with an eye for sensitive, respectful design intervention.
Jonathan completed a BS of Industrial Design and a Master’s of Architecture with a concentration in Industrial Design from Virginia Tech.
Tom Mitchell is the founder and director of Stillbrave Childhood Cancer Foundation. Affectionately known as “Tattoo Tom” by the children and families whom he serves. He is also a nationally recognized activist and advocate for children with cancer and their families.
Following the death of his daughter Shayla in 2009 from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Tom dedicated his entire life to providing non-medical support to children with cancer and their families. He’s also committed to raising awareness of the need for more research funding and safer, less toxic treatments for children with cancer.
Dubbing himself and those who work for Stillbrave as “Renegades” Tattoo Tom is always anxious to share what he’s learned, grown to understand, but refused to accept. He is very outspoken. His obvious passion, continued activism, and his innate need to be a voice for those who do not have one has led him to being at the forefront of a grassroots movement.
In September of 2015 Tom competed in and finished the Tahoe 200 mile ultramarathon. He is an extreme runner and has been featured in an award-winning documentary and news stories of his exploits have won several Emmy awards. To date he has raised over $350,000 for Stillbrave just through his ultrarunning endeavors
On any given day you are likely to find Tom on a personal visit either at the chemotherapy clinic or bedside within the confines of a hospital room where his ability to console the inconsolable is an invaluable asset. Humor, compassion and first-hand knowledge of this kind are almost impossible to quantify and cannot be delivered in a gift card, or a care package.
The following day you may find Tattoo Tom at the White House, speaking at a rally or on the streets of Washington D.C. carrying a picket sign, loudly and unapologetically vocal about what matters most, the eradication of childhood cancer.
Eli Pafumi is singer/songwriter and composer. He is a two-time finalist for the Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Award. His original song Scarlett McQueen won the Bring It! Talent Competition, and was the winner of the Loudon Youth Fest Battle of the Bands. He has opened for acts like We The Kings, Grace and Tony, Native Run and Casey Abrams. His theatrical work has been heard at The Hub Theatre in Merry, Happy What?, Act A Lady and most recently in The Magi as well as at Shippensburg University in Act A Lady. His debut EP, Finding North was released in February 2016 and is available on iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon Music, Spotify and Google Play. elipafumi.com
Whitney is a rising Millennial activist, and the Co-Founder and CEO of Service Never Sleeps. She grew up between Latin America and West Africa as a Foreign Service child. At Washington University in St. Louis, Whitney doubled majored in English and Spanish, and minored in Communications and Journalism, during which she also embraced her calling as a “Professional Humanitarian.” Whitney’s passion for service and social justice brought her to Washington, DC to serve with Americorps (City Year), and then work in homeless services for three years, before founding Service Never Sleeps in 2015. Whitney is excited to create a movement of service and allies by igniting quick social change through mass civic engagement and collaboration.
Whitney released her first single, “The Talk,” earlier this year. The song is a preview to the upcoming summer release of Whitney’s social justice album, “What Will You Do.”
Jeremy is a multidisciplinary technologist, researcher and policy analyst with a background in Computer Science and tech policy. He is currently a Baltimore Corps fellow placed as a data analyst with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services. He loves questions about social interactions with technology, appropriate policy responses for emerging technology issues and how to help organizations through the development and use of technology. He has given talks at venues such as StartingBloc, Hackers on Planet Earth, and the World Future Society conference on a range of futurist and technology-oriented topics. You can find him online at thepezman.flavors.me.
Kristin Weis is a coastal management and peacebuilding researcher and strategist. Her work aims to improve how we use and conserve the natural environment. As a graduate student at the University Centre of the Westfjords in Iceland, her current research explores how tourism affects social and ecological resilience in Dominica. She is the founder of Roskanet, a "smart tourism" project, as she fondly calls it, that aims to help shape tourism models to both benefit local communities and conserve their surrounding natural world. Her Environmental Migration Workshop helps international peacebuilding professionals create resilient responses to climate change threats, including rising sea levels and coastal damage from more intense, more frequent storms. Her workshop is held at the Just Governance for Human Security forum in Switzerland. Her efforts continue to address human mobility issues (such as environmental migration and coastal tourism trends) and international instability issues related to climate change.
Samantha Zucker is a Senior User Experience Designer with Tomorrow Partners. She’s worked in both physical and digital design, always focused on creating a better world through design. She’s spent the last 3 years focused on making education in the US more equitable. Samantha created her own education path and holds a Bachelors of Humanities and Arts in Design and Linguistics from Carnegie Mellon University.