Guest Speakers

Connecting Students with Industry Leaders

Full-time students in grades 6-12 have the opportunity to attend our symposia, Meetings with Remarkable Men and Women. These exclusive, live events are held throughout the school year and feature inspiring stories from celebrated leaders in their fields.

During the symposia, students can ask questions, offer comments, and engage in discussions with peers and experts. Past symposia guests have included an astronaut, an award-winning documentary film director, a South Pole explorer, and an environmental activist. Learn more about our past guest speakers below.

Phil Kaye

What better way to celebrate National Poetry Month than to hear from one of its experienced artists, poet Phil Kaye. At age seventeen, Phil experienced an “electric” poetry reading that became his inspiration to start writing. Since then, his work has been featured in The New Yorker and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He’s performed original poetry in twenty countries — including an 80th birthday celebration for His Holiness The Dalai Lama. As a former teacher of poetry workshops and the co-director of Project VOICE, he and his team help bring poetry to the classroom, even if it’s in a maximum security prison. Phil was gracious enough to take us along on his creative journey and share some of his work as examples of his process.

Denise Pope

Parents and children often have different definitions of success when it comes to college. To promote a balance between the two perspectives, Laurel Springs offered a webinar with Dr. Denise Pope, who discussed what research has shown to be most important when considering what college to attend. Participants learned practical strategies to help reduce unnecessary pressure around the college admissions process and ways to support their student’s overall well-being and readiness for life in college and beyond.

Dr. Pope is a Senior Lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where she specializes in these qualitative research methods, as well as student engagement, curriculum studies, and service learning. She is the founder of Challenge Success, an organization that partners with schools, families, and communities to bring about a more healthy approach to the college admission process.

Indre Viskontas

Can creativity be trained? Dr. Indre Viskontas believes it can. As a scientist, teacher, speaker, writer, and singer, she also believes one person doesn’t have to strictly stick to one path in life. Her “career portfolio” is colored by a range of passions and professions, all of which she believes complement each other and brings joy to her life. While discussing the creative process, Dr. Dre (as her students call her) talks about where talent comes from, what it means to be human, and how to change your mindset to become a more creative person.

Celine Cousteau

Her last name may be familiar, but Celine Cousteau has her own story to tell. As a social and environmental activist, she feels privileged to be able to leverage her family name to help a range of causes. As a documentarian, she raises awareness of these causes by sharing their stories. Celine believes we all can make a difference, no matter our age, background, or last name.

Shane Feldman

Shane Feldman wasn’t always a community builder. In fact, his first year of high school felt so isolating, he would have done anything to escape. Anything…including joining all the clubs and committees that matched his interests. “Fear can shut us down or shoot us forward,” Shane says. In his story, it shot him forward to Founder and CEO of Count Me In, a youth-led organization with a goal of building communities and empowering people to live their meaningful legacies.

Kelly Lovell

You’re never too young to make a difference. Kelly Lovell is proof of that. This award-winning entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, and founder of MyEffect has already accomplished so much at such a young age, but she’d rather not focus on that. “Keep your dreams independent of life milestones and age,” she says. ”Youth are not the leaders of tomorrow, we’re the leaders of today.”

Mike Coyne-Logan

What do a hot tub, a prosthetic leg, and a giant red clown shoe all have in common? They were all pulled out of one of the United States’ 250,000 rivers by Mike Coyne-Logan. This one-time teacher now acts as an educational facilitator for Living Lands & Waters (LLW), a non-profit group dedicated to the protecting, preserving, and restoring the natural environment of the nation’s rivers and their watersheds.

Natalie Warne

As she began her Meetings with Remarkable Men and Women Symposium, social activist and TED speaker Natalie Warne was quick to point out that advocacy wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision so much as it was purely a way of life for her from the time she was young. Growing up in a two-bedroom apartment on the south side of Chicago, which she shared with her mother (a social worker and educator), father, and five siblings, Natalie was surrounded by reflections of her family’s culture. This set the foundation of Natalie’s journey as an advocate for others.

Ciara Judge
Science & Entrepreneurship

In June 2018, Laurel Springs welcomed scientist and entrepreneur Ciara Judge as guest speaker at our Meetings with Remarkable Men & Women (MWRMW) Symposium.  As a teenager, Ciara was part of a team that won the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition, its EU counterpart, and the Google Science Fair for  scientific research, and she was also named one of TIME Magazine’s 25 most influential teens worldwide.

Ciara co-founded her first company, Germinaid Innovations, in 2015, and she also served on the board of directors of the United Nation’s YouthCorp Initiative. She has spoken at many conferences and events, most notably delivering a TedxTeen Talk in London in 2016. Ciara is a strong believer in the ethos that young people are just as able to change the world, and she loves to spread this message worldwide.

Read more about Ciara’s MWRMW presentation here.

Dr. Jeff Barnes
Year-End Celebrations Commencement Speaker

A proponent of expanding expectations and following one’s dreams, Dr. Jeff Barnes proved to be the perfect choice to address graduates at Laurel Springs School’s 2018 Year-End Celebrations in Orlando, Florida. The educator, motivational speaker, and author known as “Dr. Disneyland” leads the world’s only accredited college course about the history of Disneyland, and he’s penned two bestselling books (The Wisdom of Walt and Beyond the Wisdom of Walt) covering life and leadership lessons culled from the life, career, and influence of the architect of the most magical place on Earth, Walt Disney.

Read about Dr. Barnes commencement speech here.

Dr. Christopher Bell
Media Influence

Speaking at the May 2018 Meetings with Remarkable Men & Women Symposium, Dr. Christopher Bell introduced students to the process of public pedagogy, which dictates how societies learn about other people and about the world around them.

Dr. Bell is the Director of Graduate Studies and an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.  He is also an established public speaker (his TED Talk has logged over one million views) and the recipient of multiple media awards.

Read more about Dr. Bell’s presentation here.

Richard Guerry
Digital Consciousness

Laurel Springs welcomed IT professional Richard Guerry as the guest speaker at April 2018’s Meetings with Remarkable Men & Women Symposium. The founder of the non-profit organization, the award-winning Institute for Responsible Online and Cell Phone Communication (IROC2), left corporate America 2009 to apply his vast experience and knowledge to the field of digital safety and speaks to audiences about the importance of maintaining digital consciousness in order to prevent malicious behaviors and trends.

During his presentation, Richard addressed topics such as PC and mobile security, preventing cyberbullying, and poor social media and oversharing behaviors.

Read more about Richard Guerry’s presentation here.

Dr. Bob Seney
Young Adult Literature

In March of 2018, Laurel Springs was privileged to be joined by a celebrated member of the education community, Dr. Bob Seney, who provided in-depth analysis on the importance of literature and made recommendations of the latest and greatest Young Adult novels.

An accomplished educator for over 40 years, Dr. Seney’s enthusiasm for literature and storytelling earned him the unofficial title of “The Book Guy,” and his What’s New in Y.A. Literature presentation has been featured regularly at the National Association for Gifted Children Annual Conference since 1985. Dr. Seney is Professor Emeritus from Mississippi University for Women, where he also served as the Coordinator of Graduate Programs in Education, the major instructor in the Master of Gifted Studies program, and the Director of the Mississippi.

Read about Dr. Seney’s presentation during our Meetings with Remarkable Men & Women Symposium.

Jenna Lincoln
Creative Writing

In February of 2018, Laurel Springs was privileged to welcome Jenna Lincoln as the guest speaker at our Meetings with Remarkable Men & Women Symposium. After dabbling in X-FilesFirefly, and Supernatural fan fiction, Jenna got serious about exploring the depths of her imagination to build her own fictional world. The result was a series of science fiction novels, which currently include The Protector Project and The People’s Companion. During her presentation, Jenna gave valuable insights into both the creative process of crafting fictional tales, as well as her experience navigating the publishing industry.

Read more about Jenna Lincoln’s presentation here.

Ryan Paine
Film Industry & Networking

Laurel Springs School was delighted to welcome back alumnus Ryan Paine, who joined us as the featured guest at December’s Meetings with Remarkable Men and Women Symposium. The 2013 graduate and film development professional spoke to over 70 students about the importance of networking, as well as the value of utilizing resources available to students while in school. Ryan currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Co-Presidents of Roadside Attractions, the distributor to films such as Manchester by the SeaSuper Size Me, and Winter’s Bone.

Read about Ryan Paine’s presentation here.

Valerie Weisler
Bullying Prevention & Youth Empowerment

Valerie Weisler founded The Validation Project at the age of 14 after being bullied and then seeing another classmate being bullied. She told him that he mattered and those two words changed everything for him while sparking action within her.

Valerie’s award-winning non-profit organization is based on the premise that a little positive affirmation goes a long way and matches teens all over the world with a mentor who shares similar passions or skills. They work together for a minimum of four hours per week for two months and upon completing the mentorship portion, participants agree to put their passion and knowledge to work through volunteering.

Read more about Valerie Weisler’s presentation here.

Justin & Mikelle Brady
Community Development

In September of 2017, Justin and Mikelle Brady joined the Laurel Springs community to speak to students and faculty during our Meetings with Remarkable Men & Women Symposium. Justin and Mikelle are working to revolutionize development in Georgia by building sustainable community named Bluedress Farm, where neighbors will live and work to maintain a farm and co-op. Instead of another profit-driven yield plan resulting in a subdivision packed with as many lots as possible, the farm is intended to rebuild the notion that members of a community should know one another.

Read more about Justin and Mikelle Brady here.

Andy Lipkis
TreePeople.org

The January 2017 guest speaker symposium introduced environmentalist Andy Lipkis of Treepeople.org to the students of Laurel Springs School.

Andy has been planting trees to rehabilitate smog- and fire-damaged Los Angeles area forests since he was 15 years old. He founded the organization TreePeople not long after, at the young age of 18, and has served as its president since 1973.

Today, TreePeople is a worldwide beacon for climate resilience.

Andy’s presentation focused how he transitioned his passion for the environment into an organization engaging millions. He also spoke on his experience replanting forests and transforming the city of Los Angeles so that it functions like a forest as well as ways to adapt the city to protect its people from climate change, helping citizens transform from “consumers” to “regenerators.”

Andy has spoken on environmental topics to groups as varied as the United Nations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Australian National Science Foundation and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

He and his wife and colleague Kate Lipkis have received copious honors relating to their work. They were named to the U.N. Environmental Programme’s Global 500 Roll of Honour; they earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from American Forests; and president George H.W. Bush named TreePeople the 440th Point of Light in 1991. In 2007, Andy was named a Durfee Fellow and in 2009, an Ashoka Fellow.

Mitch Parks
Music Industry

During the February 2017 guest speaker symposium, Laurel Springs students had the pleasure of hearing from Mitch Parks, American musician, record producer, and songwriter. He is perhaps best known as the former lead vocalist for Grammy Award- and Dove Award-nominated rock band “After Edmund.”

His musical endeavors began in school bands and church ensembles. Mitch graduated from LaGrange College in 2007 with a Bachelor’s Degree in music. He began writing and producing professionally not long after. He recorded and toured internationally with After Edmund from 2006 to 2014.

He is currently touring as Musical Director and bassist for Dove Award-winning artist and songwriter Matt Maher.

Mitch’s presentation focused on “making it” in the often difficult-to-navigate music industry.

Amos Balongo
Children of Kenya

Mr. Amos Balongo is a public speaker, coach, and trainer. Amos has had an illustrious and diverse career. Originally from Kenya, Amos was educated in the United States and currently lives in Hawaii. His corporate career has seen him work in Leadership roles for fortune 500 companies and international organizations.

Mr. Balongo has traveled the world speaking at conferences and events for organizations, companies and foreign governments and serves as the Chairman of Camp Ohana Foundation.

In Mr. Balongo’s presentation, he spoke about his experiences with the Camp Ohana Foundation and the work that they do to provide long term education and resources to the children of Kenya. His experiences in establishing the program have taught him many important lessons, including one that he shared with our students: “Don’t quit, don’t give up. Everyone knows what a compass is… If you have a compass and you set your target on something, just stick to it. Stick to it until you achieve what you set out to achieve.”

Tom Thelen
Bullying Prevention

In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, Laurel Springs School proudly hosted nationally recognized author and youth motivational speaker, Tom Thelen, as our October symposium guest speaker. Tom was bullied as a child, but thanks to one teacher, he learned how to break free from the bullying cycle. As an adult, Tom has spoken to over 500 schools with a message that teaches students how to overcome the victim mindset and how to respond to bullying.

During Tom’s presentation, students learned how to prevent bullying from the inside-out by incorporating positive character traits like respect, responsibility, and self-esteem. If we can encourage students to be good digital citizens and help them to build strong character, we can combat the issue of bullying head on. Teaching students to respect each other and be responsible for their actions – whether in a virtual or physical classroom setting –creates a positive and supportive learning environment for all students.

Leslie Engle Young
Educational Opportunities

This year, in honor of our 25th anniversary as a school community, we are partnering with an organization called Pencils of Promise (PoP) and raising funds to build a school for underprivileged children. This initiative has inspired us to select a theme for the upcoming school year… “Do Something That Matters”. With this theme as a foundation, we welcomed the first speaker in our series for the 2016-2017 school year, the Director of Impact for Pencils of Promise, Leslie Engle Young.

Pencils of Promise is a for-purpose organization that builds schools, trains teachers, and funds scholarships. Leslie met the nonprofit’s founder in a chance encounter while traveling to Laos years ago, and today she manages the Impact team, taking trips to Ghana, Guatemala, and Laos every six weeks to oversee the PoP teams working on the ground. Leslie worked as the Country Director in Laos for almost four years before transitioning to the Director of Impact and moving back to the United States. In her presentation, she shared her career journey with our students and the work that PoP has been able to accomplish.

“I do this work because I believe that education equals opportunity; that out of education, there is a choice.”

Dr. Jane Goodall
Animals

Dr. Goodall’s discoveries about chimpanzees started in 1960, and since then she has earned countless recognition and achievements for her efforts, including being named a UN Messenger of Peace. Today, Dr. Goodall travels nearly 80% of the year giving lectures, speaking with students involved in Roots & Shoots, meeting with government officials, partaking in interviews and raising awareness about the work of the Jane Goodall Institute. Her mission is to encourage action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and empower others to make the world a better place.

At the age of 26, Dr. Jane Goodall bravely traveled from her home in England to study the behavior of chimpanzees in what is today Tanzania. Until this time, people knew very little of the species. Dr. Goodall’s first notable discovery came in November of 1960 when she witnessed chimpanzees use and make a tool while fishing for termites. Until then, scientists believed humans were the only species to use and make tools. She also discovered that chimps would hunt for food that included a variety of small animals, contrary to the belief that they were solely vegetarians.

These discoveries led National Geographic to take notice, and they began sponsoring Jane’s work. A filmmaker and photographer was sent to document Dr. Goodall’s life in Gombe. National Geographic began producing articles about Jane in magazines and featuring her in TV specials. While studying the chimpanzees, Dr. Louis Leakey, Jane’s mentor, advised that she needed to attend university to get a degree, but there was no time for a bachelors, she would have to go right into a doctorate program. In 1962, she was one of very few to be admitted into Cambridge University as Ph.D. candidate without a college degree. She earned her Ph.D. in Ethology (the science of animal behavior) in 1966, and since then, has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees.

Much of what we know today about chimpanzees is because of Dr. Goodall’s dedication and passion for learning. She founded the Gombe Stream Research Centre in 1965, where graduate students and others go to assist with chimpanzee observations. In 1977, Dr. Goodall also founded the Jane Goodall Institute, “a global nonprofit that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. Our work builds on Dr. Goodall’s scientific work and her humanitarian vision.”

Leslie Bradshaw
Life Advice

Digital PR Maven, Leslie Bradshaw is the managing partner for Made by Many, an organization that helps clients, such as Spotify, Victoria and Albert Museum, Show Time, Universal Music Group, Burberry, and Microsoft to launch create digital products that have the potential to transform their businesses.

From the May symposium, our students learned several valuable lessons including, how to balance their busy lives, how to be successful in the digital world, when to take risks and how to overcome any challenge thrown their way.

In addition to these valuable lessons, Leslie highlighted that verbal communication is essential to success and that technology can hinder how well we are communicating through our spoken words. She charged our students to be impeccable communicators in all mediums, giving them the tools to be successful in their chosen career paths.

Ryan Weber
Business

Prior to working for Google, Mr. Ryan Weber co-founded Pickie, a 2012 Techstars NYC company, which was a personalized shopping magazine built for the iPad and was acquired by RetailMeNot in 2014. Before Pickie, he founded Paragee, a web and mobile development consulting firm. Mr. Weber also spent five years at Applied Predictive Technologies as both a product manager and a strategy consultant for Fortune 500 retailers and financial institutions in the US and UK.

In his presentation, Mr. Weber shared his career experiences as a consultant for web and mobile development and gave insight into what it takes to be a programmer and startup founder, including his experiences as co-founder of Pickie; and discussed the details of his role as a product manager for Google.

Keenan and Colin Burt
Space Telescopes

NASA Engineers and brothers, Keenan and Colin Burt, who are currently working on the next great space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) graduated from high school in Southern California and both pursued degrees in Engineering. Keenan attended UCLA, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Colin attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Aerospace Engineering and receiving both his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees. As students, both brothers got involved in MESATech, a non-profit organization working toward engineering lasting improvements that make our world a better place.

In their presentation, Keenan and Colin Burt gave a short summary of the history of the telescope and how the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized Astronomy, discussed their roles with NASA, and then took students on a deep dive into their current project: the James Webb Space Telescope. They also discussed other projects they have engaged in through MESATech in the past.

Dr. Saundra Ardrey
Social Justice

Dr. Saundra Ardrey is the Head of the Political Science Department, Director of the University Political Engagement Project, and Director of the African American Studies Program at Western Kentucky University. In addition to her many accolades and accomplishments she has been awarded the President’s Award for Diversity, Outstanding Teaching Award, and in 2003 was the first African American elected as the president of the Kentucky Political Science Association. Dr. Ardrey’s passion, however, is empowering all students to become civically and politically engaged. She has attended and placed college students in internships for every Republican and Democratic Convention since 1988 and taken groups of college students to every inauguration since 1989. Her past and current global projects include service learning project trips to Sanka in Ghana, West Africa; study abroad trips to Trinidad, Tanzania, Turkey and several European countries; and a trip in the summer of 2016 to work with school children in Soweto, South Africa.

During her presentation, Dr. Ardrey recounted her own unique life journey, while sharing her life’s passion of motivating young people to understand and define their own distinctive place in society so that they are equipped to speak up and take action for social justice. Her presentation was a personal perspective through the Civil Rights movement in America and her navigational journey in finding her own voice, with the hope of empowering students to do the same. It included a discussion that allowed students to objectively explore the concepts of power, privilege and oppression, encouraging them to develop their voice, as well as find their own path in the world’s ever-evolving need and desire for social justice and equality. She shared her inspiring learning service project trips that can be both life affirming and life changing for anyone who explores the amazing diversity and similarities of global communities.

Dr. Marco Curreli
Nanotechnology

Dr. Curreli is a scientist, educator, and social entrepreneur. In 2012, Dr. Curreli consolidated his passions for nanoscience and teaching to become the Founder and Executive Director of Omni Nano, an organization that educates students about the cutting-edge science of nanotechnology. His innovative work in STEM education has been recognized and endorsed by the community. In 2014 and 2015, Omni Nano was a finalist for the Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Award – dubbed the “Oscars of Innovation” – and in 2015, Dr. Curreli was nominated for the Nonprofit Leadership Excellence Award by the Los Angeles Business Journal. Dr. Curreli earned his B.S. in Chemistry at Cal State LA and holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from USC, where he focused the entirety of his graduate work on nanotechnology.

His presentation, “You and Nanotechnology”, introduced students to the world of nanotechnology. Many applications of nanotechnology are already incorporated in our everyday lives, but the real improvements and changes have only just begun. Students discovered what enables nanotechnology and its far-reaching applications at this speaker’s Meetings with Remarkable Men and Women Symposium.

Paul Deegan
Mountaineering

Mr. Paul Deegan was born and raised in England in the 1970s. From the age of 18 until the present day he has enjoyed a peripatetic lifestyle. Indeed, since March 2015 he has lived as a nomad: after traveling to New Zealand and before heading to southern Africa, Mr. Deegan traversed the Pyrenees on foot from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Upon leaving high school, Mr. Deegan spent a period of time as one of the world’s highest trash collectors. He also worked in the outdoor retail industry to fund his expeditions to the world’s remote places. Each time he returned from a far-flung place, he shared his experiences through the twin mediums of oral and written storytelling. Mr Deegan gave his first public lecture and saw his first article published in a national magazine at the age of 18. But it took several more years before he was able to achieve his dream of becoming a full-time writer and speaker.

In addition to ascents of peaks in Alaska, the Andes, Central Asia, East Africa and the European Alps, Mr Deegan has also travelled to some decidedly non-mountainous destinations, including Antarctica, Car Nicobar and Mos Espa.

In his presentation, Mr. Deegan described how three seemingly unrelated events – which took place when he was aged 12, 15 and 17 – ultimately led him to make three attempts to climb Mount Everest. Mr. Deegan talked about how, as a teenager, his lack of knowledge and experience empowered him to achieve goals that at first glance appeared to be beyond the reach of a young person.

Hannah and Steve Longenderfer
Volunteering

In April 2015, Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake that the country is still recovering from today. One of Laurel Springs’ courageous students, Hannah Longenderfer, chose to forgo our graduation ceremony in order to travel with her family to Nepal to provide disaster relief. On November 18th, 2015, Hannah and her father joined us to share their experiences from their time in Nepal.

About the Longenderfer Family and their Ties to Nepal

Almost two years ago, the Longenderfer family embarked on a trek to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Mr. Longenderfer wrote, “We were in awe of the natural beauty of the country’s landscape, but most importantly, the beauty of its people. As a result, we spent several months in Nepal and formed many lifelong friendships.” During this time, the family witnessed the difficulty of daily life and the low economic opportunities that were available to those who lived there. In turn, the Longenderfer family developed business relationships to provide job opportunities as well as a scholarship fund for Nepali children to receive an English education.

The Longenderfer family was planning to visit Nepal to celebrate the launch of their scholarship program when the devastating Earthquake hit. The family quickly set up a “Nepal Aid Fund” and began preparing for the new purpose of this trip. Mr. Longenderfer wrote,

“Of course, this trip has taken on many new dimensions that we could never have imagined. We are committed to stay as long as we can and, as a proud father, touched that my oldest daughter volunteered to skip her high school graduation ceremony so we can extend our trip and stay longer…100% of your contribution to this fund will go directly to the people on the ground because we have virtually no overhead and a vast network of good Nepali people whose needs grow as each new day passes but also willing to help others too. Your contributions will help rebuild homes and schools, reconnect families, provide food, clothing, water, electricity and medical care.”

Since the launch of their “Nepal Aid Fund,” the Longenderfer family has raised over $11,000 and touched countless Nepali families and their children.

Dr. John Bond
Forensic Science

Dr. Bond read Applied Physics at the University of Bath and researched Space Plasma Physics at the University of Sussex, both in the United Kingdom. Dr. Bond joined Northamptonshire Police in 1993 to head the force’s Forensic Science Department. In 2011, he took early retirement from Northamptonshire Police and has now taken up a position as Senior Lecturer in Forensic Sciences at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.

In the past four years, Dr. Bond has published over forty research papers and has taken out several patents related to new ways of visualizing fingerprints. One patent was included in Time Magazine’s top 50 inventions of 2008 and BBC Focus Magazine’s inventions “most likely to change the world” of 2009. In 2011, Dr. Bond was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen for services to Forensic Science.

In this presentation, “Fingerprints Forever,” Dr. Bond discussed the visualization of fingerprints on metal surfaces after the metal has been subjected to environmental extremes. He has instructed many law enforcement agencies on how and why fingerprint sweat can corrode metal and how to visualize the fingerprint after the sweat deposit has been removed. Dr. Bond also shared examples from crime scenes where this technique has been employed.

Robert Freling
Solar Power

Mr. Freling has been the Executive Director of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) since 1997. Under his leadership, SELF has installed over 550 solar energy systems in 16 countries. This accomplishment makes SELF one of the world’s leading nongovernmental organizations that designs and implements solar energy-based solutions for those living without access to electricity.

In his presentation, Mr. Freling discussed energy poverty and the role that solar power can play in improving the health, education and economic well-being of rural communities that have been deprived of modern energy services, especially electricity. He also touched on numerous examples of how SELF has transformed the lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest citizens.

About Robert A. Freling

Dr. Freling was an early advocate of the access to energy as being essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and he is widely considered an authority on the subject of energy poverty. During his tenure, he has broadened SELF’s mission and vision to address the implications of energy poverty in developing countries. In 2000, he developed the Solar Integrated Development Model, an innovative approach for using solar energy to help communities improve their health, education, food and water security, and economic development programs. As a result, in 2003, SELF completed its first “Whole Village” project in Nigeria, utilizing solar energy to provide electricity for health clinics, schools, street lights, mosques, homes, micro-enterprise centers, and electric pumps that deliver fresh water for drinking and irrigation.

He currently serves as the Co-Chair of the U.N. Foundation’s “Sustainable Energy for All” Working Group on Energy and Health, which focuses on identifying ways to provide access to renewable energy for hospitals and health clinics. In 2008, he was presented the King Hussein Leadership Prize by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan to honor his exceptional leadership in promoting sustainable development, human rights, equity, and peace.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Mr. Freling is fluent in six languages and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Russian Studies from Yale University ,and a Master’s Degree from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.

Zarguna (Sari) Kargar
Education in Afghanistan

Ms. Kargar was born in Kabul in 1982. When civil war erupted across Afghanistan, she and her family escaped to Pakistan. Eventually, Ms. Kargar went to a university and attended a journalism course organized by the BBC, and began recording radio stories about Afghan refugee women.

In 2001, her family sought asylum in the United Kingdom, and she started working for the BBC World Service Pashtu Section. In 2004, she joined the team on the groundbreaking program, Afghan Woman’s Hour, as producer and presenter. In this program, Ms. Kargar shared the stories of women who had endured hardships solely because they were female. She remained working for this program until it was discontinued in 2010.

Ms. Kargar currently lives in London and works on current affairs programs for the BBC Afghan Service. She is also the author of Dear Zari and the screen writer of the Afghan chapter of the film, Girl Rising.

In her presentation, “Education in Afghanistan,” Ms. Kargar discussed the education changes that have come to Afghanistan in the last thirteen years. She addressed the challenges children face to get an education in Afghanistan, and the differences for boys and girls who want to receive an education.

Dr. Ryan Jackson
Healthcare and Education in Haiti

Dr. Jackson was born in Wyoming but has spent most of his adult life studying, volunteering and working abroad. After completing his MD degree, he did training in child psychiatry before starting public health research. He has volunteered his time and skills in Brazil, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Haiti.

During his time in Haiti, Dr. Jackson helped with healthcare, education (including helping establish a new nursing school), prosthetic limbs, distribution of medications and supplies to other non-profit organizations, environmental restoration projects, and arranging for US engineers to travel to Haiti to inspect structures and educate people about safe building techniques.

He has done work with gifted children both professionally and through his role as Gifted Children Coordinator for his Mensa Chapter and his role as Ombudsman of the Triple Nine Society. He speaks Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Papiamentu and other languages.

In 2010, Dr. Jackson traveled to Haiti shortly after the devastating earthquake. He spent a year on the ground helping with healthcare, education, environmental projects and more. In his presentation, Dr. Jackson will discuss his time in Haiti and how the various projects he worked on are connected.

Dr. Jackson is currently the Dean of Academics at Caribbean Medical University in Curacao. He is also on the Board of Directors of several 501c3 nonprofit organizations in the US including the US Association of the Club of Rome.

Dr. Anitra Thorhaug
Vanishing Seagrass

Dr. Thorhaug has recently been the candidate for Under Secretary General of the United Nations for Environment. Her major contributions to research include being the first to implement large scale seagrass restoration, restoration in the tropical Pacific and tropical Atlantic, setting standards for outflow in tropical and subtropical thermal effluents and for oil pollution, and the physiology of marine plants, especially seagrasses and giant algal cells (biophysical work with A. Katchalsky).

Dr. Thorhaug has authored over 200 scientific papers and abstracts, 10 books, and many grants and contracts. Her work has been recognized on several continents and by several UN programs. Her not-for-profit activities include The UN Earth Society (board member), The Botanical Society of America (board member, editorial member of American Journal of Botany and chair of Physiological Section 9 years), USA Club of Rome (board for 15 years, chair for 5 years), and Greater Caribbean Energy and Environment Foundation. Her present interests are monitoring sea grass health, global restoration global coastal pollution and climate change.

In Dr. Thorhaug’s presentation, “The Vanishing Seagrass,” she will discuss the extent and importance of saving seagrass, how climate change is affecting it, and what can be done to restore it.

Dr. Thorhaug has her Ph. D. in Biological Oceanography and Chemical Oceanography, and is presently a Research Worker at Yale University. Her impressive accomplishments include working on all five continents and contributing to projects in over 100 nations. She has also been a consultant to the following United Nations Agencies: FAO, UNEP, UNDP, World Bank, and UNESCO.

Danica Davidson
Author

Ms. Davidson has been highlighted by the Los Angeles Times as a young writer and was part of a small group from MTV to be honored by the Webbys for Best Youth Writing. As a writer at MTV, Ms. Davidson has the opportunity to highlight topics such as philanthropy, social justice issues, and young people who are making a difference. Her writing has appeared in a multitude of publications such as The Onion, CNN, Publishers Weekly and The Los Angeles Times.

Ms. Davidson is also a published author for the English adaptation versions of multiple Japanese graphic novels along with her new book, Escape from the Overworld. This middle grade Minecraft novel is an adventure story where a Minecraft character discovers a portal into our world, and accidentally brings zombies, creepers, and giant spiders along with him.

Ms. Davidson began her journey as a professional writer while she was still a high school student at Laurel Springs. Since then, her writing has appeared in approximately 50 publications and she is currently a writer for MTV. In her presentation, Ms. Davidson will discuss the steps she took to become a professional writer including facts and techniques that worked for her. Ms. Davidson claims, “It’s not just about a love of writing, but also commitment, the power of editing and the importance of knowing the ropes and making the deadlines.”

Jim Daniels
Afghanistan

Born, bred, and educated in Philadelphia, Mr. Daniels earned a Bachelor’s Degree in history and mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania. After realizing his love for teaching, Mr. Daniels went on to earn his Master’s Degree in secondary education at Saint Joseph’s University.

Mr. Daniels began his career as a high school math and social studies teacher before expanding his repertoire to include curriculum design, copyediting and e-learning development. After a decade in the education field, Mr. Daniels joined the U.S. Army where he started a program to improve the literacy rate in Afghanistan using radio and printed materials.

After spending time in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, Mr. Daniels returned to civilian life with an invigorated desire to put his knowledge and interests to work in the field of education. His main interests included distance education, particularly in the developing world and in conflict zones. In 2012, Mr. Daniels had the opportunity to return to Kabul, Afghanistan for a three month contract where he developed training materials to help Afghan teachers expand their teaching methods. With the life changing experiences of working and living in Afghanistan, Mr. Daniels has an incredible passion for the country and its people.

In his presentation, Mr. Daniels will discuss his travels in Afghanistan including Kabul and Kandahar, the projects that arose with a focus on the literacy program, and the misconceptions people have about the Afghanistan culture.

Joline Godfrey
Entrepreneurial Skills

Ms. Godfrey received a BS degree from the University of Maine and an MSW from Boston University. Elected as a Kellogg Leadership Fellow, she also received an Honorary Degree in Business from Bentley University and was the recipient of the Leavey Award for Excellence.

Ms. Godfrey grew up in a family business in Maine and has been recognized in features for The Today Show, Oprah, Fortune, Business Week, the New York Times and the Financial Times. She is the CEO of Independent Means, which is located in Santa Barbara, CA.

Ms. Godfrey is also the author of other cutting edge books and publications related to the financial fluency of HNW families. In her presentation, “Why Entrepreneurial Skills are the Competitive Advantage for the Next Generation,” Ms. Godfrey discussed her background leading up to the launch of Independent Means, her mission for Independent Means, and skills students can develop to be successful in their future.

Dr. Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu
Space Travel

In May 1981, Dr. Prunariu and Russian Cosmonaut Leonid Popov accomplished an 8 day space flight on board Soyuz-40 spacecraft and Saliut-6 space station. On this space mission, they completed scientific experiments in the fields of astrophysics, space radiation, space technology, space medicine and biology.

Since then, Dr. Prunariu’s various accomplishments include: serving as the acting Vice-President of the European Institute for Risk: Security and Communication Management from Bucharest, former President of the Romanian Space Agency, a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics, and an Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy. In 2012, he was appointed as one of the 15 experts of the Group of Governmental Experts on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures, established by the UN General Assembly Resolution 65/68.

Along with these remarkable accomplishments, Dr. Prunariu is a co-author of several books regarding space technology and space flight and has presented/published numerous scientific papers. He earned a degree in aerospace engineering from the University POLITEHNICA of Bucharest and a Ph.D. in the field of space flight dynamics. Dr. Prunariu is an Honorary Citizen of several cities and Doctor Honoris Causa of several higher education institutions from Romania, Republic of Moldova and USA.

Dr. Prunariu is a founder and the acting President of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), a member of the ASE Committee on Near Earth Objects, and recently served as the chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. In his inspiring presentation, “How Space Exploration Has Affected Everyone’s Day to Day Life,” Dr. Prunariu discussed his space mission with Russian Cosmonaut Leonid Popov, the roles space systems play today, and the key global perspectives enabled by space.

Ramaa Mosley
Film Directing

Driven by her passion, at only 13 years old Ms. Mosley found her first mentor in the film industry who taught her how to become a film director. By 16, Ms. Mosley made her first documentary film, “We Can Make a Difference,” about global pollution’s effect on children. This documentary was screened around the world and went on to win a United Nations’ Global 500 Award.

After graduating from Bennington College in Vermont, at 21 Ms. Mosley was hired by the Dutch government to direct a documentary on the Aymara Indians of Bolivia. Her career quickly took off and she began directing music videos, national and international commercials, short films and feature films. Ramaa is an award winning commercial and film director as well as a mentor and inspiration to many.

In her powerful presentation, Ms. Mosley discussed how to become an adolescent director, what made it possible for her to become one, and the young directors she currently works with. As the Creative Director of Adolescent, Ms. Mosley mentors their adolescent directors who are all between the ages of 13 and 25. She does this by taking the time to work with each individual to develop and hone their point of view and skill set. This is the first company dedicated to working with young directors.

Steve Gill
Turning Waste Into Fuel

Steve Gill is a fourth generation California farmer whose farming roots started with his great-grandfather. He was exposed to farming at an early age, was involved in agricultural youth groups, and knew he wanted to pursue a career in the agricultural industry. He earned a degree in Crop Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California and is now an owner-partner of Gills Onions, along with his brother David. As part-owner, he is involved in every part of the onion business including planting, growing, harvesting, processing, and packaging. Gills Onions was founded in 1983 and is one of the nation’s largest family-owned onion facilities.

In addition to their onion processing, Gills Onions is leading the way toward a low-carbon future. Since 2009, the company has been repurposing its onion waste and using it to generate electricity at its processing plant. Using this system, Gills Onions is able to convert 100% of their daily onion waste (up to 300,000 pounds!) into renewable energy and cattle feed. In his presentation, Mr. Gill will discuss this initiative and how the system, called the Advanced Energy Recovery System, or AERS, uses onion juice to produce biogas that fuels the electricity for the processing plant.

Ted Turner
Business

Ted Turner is a philanthropist and businessman who is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and chairman of the Turner Foundation. After a lifetime of accomplishments in advertising, cable television, and professional sports, Turner is dedicated to his applying his entrepreneurial acumen, sharp business skills, and leadership qualities to his personal passions of environmental initiatives and philanthropy to make the world a better place.

Laurel Springs’ families enjoyed the opportunity to discuss Turner’s work to protect more than 50 endangered species, his role as chairman of the United Nations Foundation, and his creation of Captain Planet, the first environmental cartoon for children. Executive Director and Laurel Springs Founder Marilyn Mosley Gordanier serves on the Captain Planet Foundation board chaired by Turner’s daughter Laura Turner Seydel.

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