Featured Speakers

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Hill Harper

Actor, Author & Founder of the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation
PLENARY: Closing Keynote Address, Wednesday, Nov. 14

Hill Harper, J.D. is an award-winning actor, currently starring as Dr. Marcus Andrews on TV’s #1 new drama The Good Doctor on ABC. Harper has earned seven NAACP Image Awards for his writing and acting and is a 4-time New York Times best-selling author. His most recent book is the groundbreaking Letters to an Incarcerated Brother , which speaks to the current mass incarceration crisis; it was released to critical acclaim and nominated for several awards. Harper is an entrepreneur and humanitarian. He founded the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping underserved youth  succeed through education, mentorship, and grant programs.

Harper was born in Iowa City, IA, the son of two doctors – his father, a psychiatrist and his mother, an anesthesiologist. He graduated magna cum laude as valedictorian of his department with a Bachelor’s Degree from Brown University and cum laude with a Juris Doctorate degree from Harvard Law School. Harper also holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration with honors from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Harper travels worldwide as a motivational speaker, addressing current affairs and life-awakening topics to a wide array of audiences.

Miss USA & Miss Teen USA

Kára McCullough

Miss USA 2017 & Founder of Science Exploration for Kids
PLENARY: Shaping Inclusive Practices for Every Child to Grow, Wednesday, Nov. 14

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence!” Kára McCullough lives by this quote by every day.  Kára is a scientist with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Founder of Science Exploration for Kids (SE4K), and Miss USA 2017.

Her passion for science began at an early age and ultimately lead her to graduate from South Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a concentration in Radiochemistry.

Kára has used her platform to share her life experiences and speak motivationally about having the growth mindset. Kára created SE4K as a STEAM organization creating “fun-with-purpose” activities for every grade level through one-day travel workshops and career readiness.

Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff

Miss Teen USA 2017
PLENARY: Shaping Inclusive Practices for Every Child to Grow, Wednesday, Nov. 14

Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff is a native of Kansas City, Missouri who represented her home state in the 2017 Miss Teen USA pageant and won the crown! She is currently in pursuit of an undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Studies with an emphasis on Latin America. Her future educational plans include attending law school.

With her peers, Sophia created Community and Scholars Cooperatively (CASC), an organization focused on making community service opportunities fun and easy for teenagers. Sophia has dedicated her time to many organizations that support people with disabilities, and has worked with Missouri state legislators to create policies that provide them with the best quality care.

Mayor of Kansas City, MO

Mayor Sly James

Founder of Turn the Page KC
PLENARY: A Vision for a Summer Learning Sea Change, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Mayor Sly James was sworn in as the 56th Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri on March 22, 2011. Since taking office, he has focused his efforts towards making Kansas City best in four key areas: Education, Employment, Efficiency, and Enforcement. Mayor James’ first major accomplishment upon taking office was the creation of Turn the Page KC, an organization dedicated to mobilizing the community to achieve reading proficiency at grade level or above for all 3rd graders in Kansas City. In his first term, Mayor James visited a total of 90 different classrooms across the city, reading and interacting with the city’s most valuable resource: the students.

Featured Speakers

Peter Samuelson

Movie Producer & Founder of First Star
PRIVATE SCREENING: Foster Boy, Tuesday, Nov. 13
PLENARY: Shaping Inclusive Practices for Every Child to Grow, Wednesday, Nov. 14

In 1999, Peter Samuelson co-founded First Star, a national charity working to improve the public health, safety, and family life of America’s abused and neglected children. In 2008, Peter founded Everyone Deserves a Roof (EDAR), to develop and widely distribute, through established service agencies, a mobile single-user homeless shelter on wheels.

Peter Samuelson is a graduate of Cambridge University with a Masters in English Literature and the fourth of five family generations employed in the film industry. He is also President of ASPIRE, the Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Education, whose undergraduate courses have been successfully piloted at UCLA.

Karl Alexander

NSLA Board Member, Academy Professor and Sociology Research Professor at Johns Hopkins University
WORKSHOP: Summer Learning Research: State of Play and a New Research Agenda, Wednesday, Nov. 14

Karl L. Alexander is Academy Professor and Research Professor of Sociology at the Johns Hopkins University, having retired as the John Dewey Professor of Sociology in 2014 after 42 years at Hopkins. He also holds a courtesy appointment as Professor at the Hopkins School of Education. Alexander received his PhD in Sociology in 1972 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, after which he came to Hopkins as an Assistant Professor.

He chaired the Hopkins Department of Sociology from 1985 to 1993, 2006 – 2009 and 2011 – 2014. Beginning in 1982 and continuing for more than a quarter century, he and colleague Doris Entwisle directed the Baltimore-based Beginning School Study Youth Panel (BSSYP), which tracked the life progress of 790 Baltimore children from first grade into mature adulthood.

Maxine Clark

CEO of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation & Founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop®
PLENARY: A Vision for a Summer Learning Sea Change, Tuesday, Nov. 13

In 2015, Maxine launched Blueprint4SummerSTL, a free and easy-to-use mobile app designed to help St. Louis families navigate the best summer activities for their children.  Maxine was named to the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2017 and was named Women of the Year by the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation in 2015.

Maxine Clark is CEO of the Clark-Fox Family Foundation and founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop®, a teddy-bear themed retail-entertainment experience.

Michele Casper

Vice President of Public Relations & Brand Marketing at Lands’ End
PLENARY: A Vision for a Summer Learning Sea Change, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Michele Casper creates opportunities to introduce new customers to the iconic Lands’ End brand as well as deepen existing relationships with loyal customers around the globe. She is responsible for the development of all strategic marketing communication campaigns, corporate messaging, charitable alliances, strategic partnerships, and social media strategies.

Michele is Lands’ End’s primary spokesperson for national news interviews.

Marlyn Torres

Corporate Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Senior Program Officer of the New York Life Foundation
PLENARY: A Vision for a Summer Learning Sea Change, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Marlyn Torres is Corporate Vice President for Corporate Responsibility and Senior Program Officer of the New York Life Foundation. In addition, Marlyn serves as the co-chair of New York Life’s Latino Employee Resource Group. Since 2007, Marlyn has provided leadership to promote the Foundation’s mission and strategic direction and is responsible for developing and managing the Foundation’s national education grants portfolio. The Foundation’s educational enhancement grantmaking supports high quality out-of-school time programs that help middle school students make a successful transition to high school.

Julia Coffman

Founder of the Center for Evaluation Innovation
WORKSHOP: Measuring the Power of Your Advocacy, Wednesday, Nov. 14

Julia Coffman has more than 20 years of experience as an evaluator, and now specializes in the evaluation of advocacy, public policy, and systems change efforts. For 15 years Julia worked with the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP), a research and evaluation organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Julia led HFRP’s evaluation work for over a decade, which included evaluating foundation and nonprofit initiatives and publishing The Evaluation Exchange, a nationally renowned periodical on emerging evaluation strategies and issues. Julia frequently writes and speaks about evaluation. She is the founder and former co-chair of the American Evaluation Association’s Advocacy and Policy Change Topical Interest Group.

Jason D. King

Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing at Clear Channel Outdoor Americas
WORKSHOP: How Collaboration Leads to Success in Early Learning, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Jason D. King is a senior-level corporate communicator and media journeyman with 20 years’ experience executing integrated marketing strategies to yield measurable results for government, non-profits, and publicly traded companies. In a career that spans print and radio reporting, King parlayed a 12-year career in transportation policy and public affairs in Washington, D.C. into cable TV program marketing. He’s now immersed in the most captivating and disruptive force among all media: the juncture of social, mobile, and digital out-of-home advertising. In this capacity at Clear Channel Outdoor, he oversees all corporate communications for the North American business operations, including corporate social responsibility.

Scott Hall

Senior Vice President of Civic and Community Initiatives at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce
WORKSHOP: How Collaboration Leads to Success in Early Learning, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Scott Hall is the Senior Vice President for Civic and Community Initiatives at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. In his role, Scott leads a team that is involved in the KC Chamber’s work on large locally-focused projects, including the KC Chamber’s “Big 5” initiatives – five things to make Greater Kansas City the best place to live, work, start a business and grow a business – and “Healthy KC.” As a part of the KC Chamber’s leadership team, Scott also helps to lead on a variety of organizational efforts, including how the KC Chamber serves its members.

Halley French

Program Officer in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
WORKSHOP: How Collaboration Leads to Success in Early Learning, Tuesday, Nov. 13

Halley French is a program officer in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she supports early learning initiatives through program development, grant management, and building relationships. Her work focuses on early childhood education programming and grantmaking, including coordination of the Early Education Funders Collaborative.

Roberto Gil, Jr.

Director at the Princeton-Blairstown Center
PLENARY: Shaping Inclusive Practices for Every Child to Grow, Wednesday, Nov. 14

Roberto joined PBC in 2013 after spending eight years at Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL). As Director of Field Operations, Roberto oversaw programs in New York, NY, Augusta, GA, and Detroit, MI. Prior to this he served as BELL’s Site Manager for the Bronxwood School where he oversaw an afterschool program for 200 scholars. In October of 2016 he was elected to the National Board of Directors of the American Camp Association.

Jovanna Rohs, Ph.D.

Director of Early Learning for the Mid-America Regional Council
WORKSHOP: How Collaboration Leads to Success in Early Learning, Tuesday, Nov 13

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Jovanna Rohs has served in a variety of roles within the field of early childhood education. She has been a classroom teacher, early interventionist, home visitor, teacher educator, researcher, and advocate. In her current role as the Director of Early Learning for the Mid-America Regional Council, Dr. Rohs oversees the Metropolitan Council on Early Learning as well as Mid-America Head Start. She has published in the areas of early childhood curriculum planning and teacher-child interactions. Dr. Rohs has served on local and state-level governing and coordinating boards, and currently holds an appointment on the first-ever Jackson County Community Children’s Services Fund board of directors.