2010 Speakers

  • Carson Chodos
    Carson has spent over five years working with multi-lingual and multi-age youth. Carson’s academic studies have served as an international framework to understand diverse contexts and learn appropriate pedagogies. To enhance her education and ground her dedication to equity and justice she has worked as a homeless shelter youth leader, a student counselor and reproductive justice program coordinator for CLPP. To better gain a global perspective on the intersection of Education and Equity, Carson learned Twi and spent an accumulative six months co-teaching and facilitating a teacher advocacy program in central Ghana. She maintains her commitment to inclusive education by continuing to volunteer as a youth leader at Sylvia’s Place in Manhattan.
  • Darshan Somashekar
    Darshan is from Chicago and lives in New York City. He co-founded ImagineEasy Solutions with Neal Taparia. Darshan graduated from Brown University with a BA in Public Policy. Darshan also worked at Bain & Company and co-founded http://drop.io.
  • Neal Taparia
    Neal is from Chicago and currently lives in New York City. Neal co-founded ImagineEasy Solutions with Darshan Somashekar. Neal attended Northwestern as an economics major and graduated in 2006, after which he took a short stint at Lehman Brothers (but intelligently left before its demise…)
  • Hunter Johansson
    Hunter was born and raised in Manhattan, New York. In 2008, Hunter was a campaign organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign for President in Jefferson County, Colorado. Until 2008, no Democratic Presidential candidate had won Jefferson County in 44 years. Since the campaign, Hunter has taken a break from politics, and is studying nursing at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
  • Graham Meriwether
    Leave It Better shares stories of environmental healing. In the spring of 2010, a small group of determined elementary and middle school students (of PS 306 and MS 331 in the Bronx) decided to clean up an abandoned lot across the street from their school. Every Saturday for 25 weeks straight, the kids and adults of LIB have been picking up trash, building raised beds, planting vegetables and flowers, and just as importantly, they’ve been filming, writing, blogging, drawing and photographing every step of the way. The result has been a complete transformation that’s been unfolding concurrently in both the actual community of Morris Heights, and the online community at www.leaveitbetter.com. We’ll share writing, drawing and video demonstrating the transformation of the park, and talk about the joys and challenges we’ve faced during the process. LIB team members, Dominique Bouillon, Brent English, and Graham Meriwether will be joined by will be Kayla Rubin, a 4th year science teacher at MS 331 The Bronx School of Science, Inquiry, and Investigation that is directly across the street from the park. Also, students who have helped at the park will facilitate an interactive presentation with the audience!
  • Stacey Murphy
    Stacey Murphy is the founder of bkfarmyards. She has five years gardening experience and has 2 years teaching. She has a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree and a Masters of Architecture. Stacey has 10 years experience running complex architectural and engineering projects, and she spent the 2009 growing season running backyard farms in Brooklyn and growing food for a 6-person CSA in Ditmas Park.
  • Steve Bergen
    Steve Bergen is the CIO & Computer Teacher at The Children’s Storefront in Harlem. He was one of two people to start The Original Teaching Company back in 1982 which has offered 5 day Summercore computer workshops and consulting to over 100 schools and almost 3,000 teachers in the United States, Italy, Japan, Sudan and Belgium. Steve helped create Tech Saturdays in 2007 to provide free computers to underserved families in Harlem, Bronx and Brooklyn and is now trying with a colleague to create a grade 6-12 charter school in the Bronx built around the the themes of international connections and technology.
  • The Flying Karamazov Brothers
    The Flying Karamazov Brothers were born on April 23, 1973 at a Renaissance fair in northern California, and they prove, with each unique performance, that the unexpected events in our lives are the best part of being human. They currently perform at the Minetta Lane Theatre (18 Minetta Lane between Sixth Avenue and MacDougal Street). It is an unforgettable spectacle of music, comedy, dance, theater and juggling. Reviews declare: “100 minutes of cleverness and comedy go by in a flash.” “It’s the Juilliard String Quartet meets Monty Python,” and “as close to a sure thing as can be found onstage.” “It’s unleashed fun.” For more information about The Flying Karamazov Brothers, please visit www.fkb.com.
  • Allegra Califano
    Allegra Califano is a 15-year old sophomore and a Vocal Major at LaGuardia High School. This is her second year as a member of the Red Cross Club. The Red Cross club has fundraisers, CPR and first aid training, and service projects. Allegra enjoys being a contributor to the club, and she derives satisfaction and fun through a variety of great learning and helping experiences. Allegra feels honored to be part of The Red Cross Club and plans to continue her membership throughout her high school career.
  • Cecilia Nealon-Shapiro
    Cece Nealon-Shapiro is currently a Junior at The Spence School, and is a 2008 graduate of The School at Columbia University. In her own words, “When serving in different communities, it is a great feeling to have the ability to physically see how you are helping others. All it takes is will and desire to help those in need and it is rewarding! Reading and playing with children in Africa and painting their school, serving lunch to the homeless people in Jerusalem and doing midnight runs here in NYC have all helped make last year one of the most memorable and meaningful years of my life so far. Really, you can help people anywhere, making a difference in theirs and you life!” Later this month, Cece will be the recipient of a Presidential Volunteer Service Award from Families with Children from China‘s Guanyin Project for having completed over 250 hours of community service last year.
  • Christina Gelsone
    A performing artist and choreographer, Christina has been an ensemble member of Bond Street Theatre since 2001. With the company, she has traveled to Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Singapore, Japan and Western Europe to perform in company productions and participate in cultural exchange projects. As an ensemble member and choreographer, she is instrumental in the creation of all productions. Ms. Gelsone is a clown, actress and professional dancer. She the is co-founder of Fools Academy, presenting educational-circus based shows for children, and a member of Full Bloom Theatre. She has been a teaching artist for the Bronx Arts Ensemble, New Victory Theatre and Adelphi University. Ms. Gelsone studied at Boston Ballet Conservatory and Hartford Ballet and has her BA in English from Princeton University. She is a graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theater.
  • Maura Milles
    Maura Milles will be speaking about her work with Hand in Hand. Hand in Hand is one of the boldest approaches to creating social change through an extraordinary network of integrated bilingual schools for Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. Close to 1,000 students are transforming their society and leading the way, creating a more democratic and peaceful future. These award-winning schools, which focus on multiculturalism and equality, have already begun to engender dramatic change and make a significant impact. The schools provide not only a framework for dialogue, but also create communities of Jews and Arabs who together are engaged in the every day activity of building a civil society — the foundation of peaceful co-existence. Most importantly, the schools are a rare beacon of light, proving to Israelis and people around the world, that Arabs and Jews can live together in mutual respect and understanding.
  • Michelle Cheung
    When Michelle was a baby, her parents decided to move to the Philippines. There, she was exposed to poverty and witnessed the huge gap between the rich and the poor. It made her heart ache and, ever since then, she had a longing to effect change in this world. At 15, she successfully persuaded her parents to send her to United World Colleges (UWC), a boarding school whose mission is to make education a force to unite people of all nations and cultures. There, she met teachers and students who shared (and continue to share) her passion to inspire change. UWC harbored an environment of volunteerism and awareness of what was going on in the world. Michelle has found her cause in mentorship and education. Today, she is an active volunteer; She mentors underserved high-school students via iMentor and teaches literacy and English as a Second Language to adult learners. She has also participated in the efforts of other NYC non-profits including New York Cares, Step Up Women’s Network, and OneBrick.
  • Adam Seidel
    Since participating in service-learning programs as a teenager, Adam has sought to create similar opportunities for others. He’s worked directly with middle and high school students on community organizing projects in Boston and Ohio. Adam joined Common Cents, the creators of the Penny Harvest, in January 2004 as the Community Development Fellow and created innovative ways to bridge schools and community organizations. After a year and a half in this position, he took over the oversight and operations of the Penny Harvest and has continued to supervise the Penny Harvest, the nation’s largest service-learning program that teaches citizenship and leadership through philanthropy and community service.
  • Juan Villar-Ojito
    Juan Arturo Villar-Ojito was born in Miami but moved to New York before he turned 2. He is a graduate of The School at Columbia (Class of 08), and is now a junior at Xavier High School, where he has been a member of the Xavier Dramatic Society since his freshman year. Juan is an aspiring actor who has had leading roles in school plays and in adolescent theater at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He has tutored middle school students learning Spanish, and he has worked with members of Phi Theta Kappa’s alumni chapter at Columbia preparing bags of food for the poor and homebound. Juan wants to make the world a better place through the arts. He enjoys traveling, dancing and making friends all over the world.
  • The Manhattan Country School
    Vaughn Amir Thomas Simmons, Mayo Saji, and Isaiah Hickes are 7th and 8th graders at Manhattan Country School in New York City. Student activism is a valued part of the MCS curriculum, and they have all been part of various activism projects over the years. After learning about the US government and the Civil Rights Movement, Isaiah’s 6th grade class started an activism project centered around making change through the government. They chose to lobby for same sex marriage, and they met with State Senator Krueger to give a multimedia presentation in support of their views. The 7th and 8th graders plan annual activism projects where they spend the entire year crafting a project in response to an issue they want to see changed. Last year, Mayo and Vaughn went to West Virginia to learn about MountainTop Removal Mining, to collaborate with other activists fighting for the same cause, and to share what they learned via letters to the editor, artwork, a meeting with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and educations forums for the MCS community. Vaughn was also chosen for a follow-up trip to the Appalachia Rising conference in Washington, DC, the largest national gathering protesting MTR to date. Outside of school, Mayo enjoys drawing, painting, and drama; Vaughn plays sports and is pursuing a career in filmmaking; and Isaiah enjoys soccer and video games.
  • The Columbia Clefhangers
    The Columbia Clefhangers (aka “Clefs”) are students at Columbia University who form a shockingly hot contemporary co-ed a cappella group in New York City. Since 1988, the Clefs have been singing their hearts out from Rockefeller Center to Paris, entertaining audiences with their original arrangements of pop, R&B, and soulful music of every genre. In 2008, the Clefs placed second at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Quarterfinals and won awards for Best Soloist and Best Vocal Percussion, adding to their total of 6 quarter and semifinal top placements and 9 special awards at the competition since 1996! Plans are under way for the Clefs to release a new album this academic year, 2010-2011!
  • Lita Pena
    Lita Peña is an 8th grader at The School at Columbia University. She was recently elected President of the Student Government. As President, Lita plans to make many more community service opportunities for her school and really show students that 8th graders can make a huge difference within their community. She has participated in many community service projects including volunteering at a food pantry and helping students at a low income pre-school. Lita is excited to co-host TEDxYouth@TheSchool!
  • Lucy Ryan
    Short bio of this speakerLucy is an 8th grader at The School and is Vice President of the Student Government. A student-athlete, Lucy balances her studies, her participation on the cross-country, basketball, and lacrosse teams, and her newly elected duties as a government official. Lucy is very much interested in social justice, and she is excited about beginning work on her 8th grade Social Action Project. She is honored and excited to co-host TEDxYouth@TheSchool.

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