Featured Speakers

Kelita Bak

Kelita Bak, CEO, National Youth Leadership Council
A strong advocate for youth, Bak has worked in youth development and public policy in Washington, D.C. for more than 15 years. She has held a range of leadership positions in national nonprofit organizations, most recently as the National Vice President of Advancement for Camp Fire USA. Throughout her career, Bak has built and managed key relationships, including numerous partnerships and coalitions. Among those, she served as a lead convener of Service-Learning United and worked to secure agreement among service-learning leaders on provisions in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. She also has served on the board of the National Service-Learning Partnership and as a mentor in the Emerging Leaders Initiative, led by NYLC and the Partnership.

Wednesday, March 13, Opening Plenary, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Lisa Bardwell

Lisa Bardwell, President and CEO, Earth Force
Bardwell is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Earth Force. Bardwell is committed to finding ways to better engage young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities.

Wednesday, March 13, Opening Plenary, 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

Steve Culbertson, President and CEO, YSA (Youth Service America)
Culbertson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Youth Service America, an international nonprofit organization that partners with thousands of organizations committed to increasing the quality and the quantity of volunteer opportunities for young people to serve locally, nationally, and globally. For two years in a row, the Nonprofit Times named him to its list of "The 50 most powerful and influential leaders".

Thursday, March 14, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Reginald Dwayne Betts

Reginald Dwayne Betts, Councilmember, Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Reginald Dwayne Betts to the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. An award-winning writer and poet, Betts’ memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was the recipient of the 2010 NAACP Image Award for non-fiction. In 2010 he was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship to complete The Circumference of a Prison, a work of nonfiction exploring the criminal justice system. In addition, he is the author of a collection of poetry, Shahid Reads His Own Palm. Along with his writing, Betts is involved in a number of non-profit organizations, including the Campaign for Youth Justice for which he serves as a national spokesperson. He received a B.A. from the University of Maryland and was recently awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship to Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies.

Thursday, March 14, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Dawn Engle

Dawn Engle, Executive Director, PeaceJam Foundation
Engle, executive director and cofounder of PeaceJam Foundation in Arvada, Colo., has engaged more than 600,000 youth in service-learning, hosted more than 150 youth conferences with PeaceJam Foundation’s 13 Nobel Peace Laureates, and supported youth to implement more than 1 million service-learning projects in their communities. She and her staff have also trained more than 50,000 educators in service-learning across the US and the globe. Engle has been nominated seven times for the Nobel Peace Prize and received numerous awards for her work through PeaceJam and dedication to youth and service-learning.

Friday, March 15, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.


Mark Kielburger

Marc Kielburger, Free the Children
Kielburger is co-founder of Free The Children, an international charity and educational partner, and signature event, We Day, engaging with 1.7 million youth globally and making We Day the largest Facebook cause in the world.

dr. james kielsmeier

 Dr. James C. Kielsmeier
Kielsmeier has committed his life to transforming the roles of young people in society — building youth/adult partnerships that facilitate young people’s growth from recipients of information to contributing members of a democratic society. In the process, he has pioneered service-learning, an educational approach that benefits young people and communities around the world. Kielsmeier founded the National Youth Leadership Council in 1983.

Danielle Liebl, Special Olympics Minnesota
Liebl currently attends the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota. At 11, Liebl became involved with Special Olympics solely as an athlete in track, bowling, swimming and golf. Her leadership roles as an athlete led to her become involved in the Athlete Leadership Program and the Youth Activation Committees on the state and national level — opportunities which have given her tremendous confidence as a young person. The highlight of Liebl’s work with the national YAC was bringing Teen Truth Live to two local high schools. In her own words, Lieble believes that “youth are the innovators of change; they are key agents empowered to make this world a better place.”

Thursday, March 14, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.


Julia Sewell, Speaker, Faciliator, and Spoken Word Artist
Sewell is an international motivational speaker, spoken word artist and facilitator. She has worked in the education field for the past 15 years. She has spoken at over 150 events, conferences and trainings. Serving on all major youth advisory boards and working with organizations such as NYLC, America's Promise Alliance, State Farm and BET, Sewell continues to create new, innovative strategies to reaching and teaching young people. She has created her own workshop and keynote series that focuses in on re-engaging at risk youth using methods like the arts. Currently, Sewell lives and works in New York City as an educational consultant, trainer and teacher.

Time TBD


Kaitlyn Smith, Special Olympics Colorado
Smith is a sophmore at the University of Northern Colorado, where she plans to major in Special Education. After meeting her best friend who has Down syndrome, Smith knew she wanted to find more ways to help individuals with intellectual disabilities and began volunteering for Special Olympics. Five years later, Smith now is now a coach for basketball and volleyball, a member of her state Youth Activation Committee and the National Youth Activation Committee, and plans to stay involved with Special Olympics for her whole life. Her favorite part about being on the YAC is having the opportunity to help Special Olympics on a level that not only impacts her state, but the country as well, and loves the fact that all the members on are so committed and dedicated to the organization.

Thursday, March 14, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.


Wendy Spencer

Wendy Spencer, CEO, Corporation for National and Community Service - INVITED
Spencer became the Chief Executive Officer of CNCS on April 9, 2012, after working nearly 30 years in volunteer management and administration, and is the first CEO to come to CNCS directly from the field of national service. Prior to joining CNCS, Spencer’s career includes serving as the CEO of the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism, an appointee to the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation in 2006, the director of the Florida Park Service, and a decade of service at the United Way of Big Bend in north Florida. A native of Thomasville, Ga., Spencer captured a passion for volunteering at a young age. Spencer holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and speech communications from Valdosta State University, and she and her husband have four sons, two daughters-in-law, and one granddaughter.

Wednesday, March 13, Opening Plenary, 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.


Dr. James Toole, President/CEO, Compass Institute
Toole is President of Compass Institute and Teaching and Research Fellow at the University of Minnesota in the School of Social Work and College of Education and Human Development. His professional passions include leadership development, organizational change, spirituality and service, global health, and service-learning. Dr. Toole has worked nationally in 45 states with schools, non-profits, foundations, correctional facilities, and state departments of education and has taught at every level from pre-school and kindergarten through graduate school.

Friday, March 15, Immersion Session, 2:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.


Naomi Tutu, Human Rights Activist
Tutu, daughter of South African Archbishop Desmond and Nomalizo Leah Tutu, is an internationally recognized speaker, recipient of numerous awards, and founder of Nozizwe Consulting, which aims to bring different groups together to learn from and celebrate their differences and acknowledge their shared humanity. She holds four honorary degrees from universities and colleges in the US and Nigeria and is pursuing a Masters in Divinity at Vanderbilt University. Born in South Africa during apartheid, she has taken up the challenge and channeled the opportunities that she has been given to raise her voice as a champion for the dignity of all.

Friday, March 15, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.


Bill Watada

Bill R. Watada, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation
Watada is the Regional Administrator for the Region 8 Office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Department of Transportation.  In partnership with the States, Bill serves as the Federal representative for the Administration in managing a variety of complex traffic safety programs in the field.

Jorge Zamora, Chicago Bulls College Prep
Zamora is a junior at Chicago Bulls College Prep in Chicago, Ill. He is a former member of Voices of Youths in Chicago Education, which deals with community issues such as the violence surrounding his high school, and is a former member of NYLC’s Youth Advisory Council. Outside of school, he participates in many sports throughout the year, including cross country, softball, wrestling, and track and field.

Friday, March 15, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Youth Emcees

Tyler Hardin
Hardin is a junior at Weaver Academy in North Carolina.  He produces and anchors a youth-led television news program, Student Reports highlighting Guilford County School's student achievements.  He is the recipient of the Youth Peacemaker Award and a national Teen Kids News Reporter Contest winner.  He serves on the GCS Superintendents Student Advisory Council, Teen Grant Making Council, Kids Voting Board of Directors and proud to be apart of the GCS Service-Learning Youth Council.

Thursday, March 14, Dwayne Betts Thought Leader Session, 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.


Raisa Hernandez
Hernandez, age 18, is a senior at Atascocita High School in Houston, Tex., and is a member of NYLC's Youth Advisory Council. She is the president of her school's chapter of the National Spanish Honor Society and is involved in the Social Action club. She plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and major in psychology.

Friday, March 15, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Ryan Lennon
Lennon, a junior at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Penn., is one of the founding members and co-chair of the Youth Action Council for the Institute for Global Education and Service Learning. He is also a member of his school's student council, president of the junior class service club, and treasurer for the school's annual charity ball.

Thursday, March 14, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Emma Messner
Messner is a sophomore at Harry D. Jacobs High School in Algonquin, Ill. and is a member of NYLC's Youth Advisory Council. She is involved in her school's service-learning programs and is a strong advocate for service-learning and its impact on youth.

Wednesday, March 13, Opening Plenary, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Marissa Moran
Marissa Moran is a sophomore attending Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland, Pennsylvania.  She enjoys giving back to her community and is a co-founder and chair of the Youth Action Council at Institute for Global Education and Service-Learning.

Friday, March 15, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Charles Orgbon III
Orgbon, age 16, is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Greening Forward. Since 2008, he has spearheaded a network of 500 young environmental changemakers who have recycled 30 tons of waste, planted 74 trees, and rallied more than 6,000 community members in advocacy and educational campaigns.

Wednesday, March 13, Opening Plenary, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Dymani Poyser
Poyser, a junior at Vanguard Collegiate High School  in Rochester, N.Y., is the owner of Summa Cum Laude; a literacy, college readiness, and non-violence empowerment business. Poyser also participates in numerous extracurricular activities including the Hillside Work Scholarship Program, the Urban League's Project Ready, and is the Monroe County Youth as Resources co-chair. Poyser plans to major in theater or psychology in college.

Friday, March 15, Naomi Tutu Thought Leader Session, 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Allison Schaubroeck

Allison Schaubroeck
Schaubroeck, age 17, is a senior at New Castle Junior/Senior High School. She is a hardworking student and enjoys scrapbooking, listening to music, singing, going on mission trips, making new friends and spending time with her family.

Friday, March 15, Dawn Engle Thought Leader Session, 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Casey Sokolovic
Sokolovic, age 15, is the founder of Help Them L.A.S.T. — Love A Sea Turtle. For seven years, Sokolovic has been volunteering, fundraising, participating in awareness activities, and has launched numerous programs to encourage youth volunteerism and environmental responsibility.

Thursday, March 14, Plenary Session, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.