Featured Speakers


Alex Askew, AmeriCorps member

During my freshman year at St. Olaf College, my advisor encouraged me to look for internship opportunities for that upcoming summer. After searching for opportunities aligning with my interests in working with youth and conservation, I found a perfect fit: a Crew Leader position with the Conservation Corps! This position began my journey with national service. I spent the next summer as a crew leader once more before spending the following two summers as a supervisor to those same AmeriCorps positions. Approaching graduation, I heard about the education nonprofit College Possible, which helps low-income students make their way to and through college, and knew that I had to take the opportunity to serve another year. As an AmeriCorps member with College Possible, I forged partnerships with area colleges, arranged campus visits, and organized large events for all of our students. That one year turned into two, and I am currently serving a VISTA term in the College Possible National Office, gaining skills in development and communications while also representing AmeriCorps members through my term as President of the InterCorps Council of Minnesota. My AmeriCorps journey that started while I was a student at St. Olaf has provided me a way to give back to my Twin Cities community. I will always value service and the importance of community collaboration from the lessons I’ve learned as an AmeriCorps member.


William C. Basl

Bill Basl was appointed as the Director of AmeriCorps in June 2012 at the Corporation for National and Community Service. Prior to this appointment, during the past 40 years, Bill worked in a variety of capacities for the state of Washington. He served as the initial Executive Director of the Washington Commission for National and Community Service established by Governor Mike Lowry in 1994 to implement and expand volunteerism and national service initiatives including AmeriCorps. In 1983, prior to being named to this position, Bill founded the Washington Service Corps which was the first statewide youth service initiative in the nation designed to address priority local  education and human service’s needs. Bill was reappointed to this position by former Governor and former Ambassador to China, Gary Locke and in 2005 by Governor Chris Gregoire. He served as a member of the Governor’s Small Agency Cabinet. He has assisted agencies and organizations nationally and internationally to expand and strengthen national service.

Bill supported the State Department in promoting national service, requested by Italian government and civic service leaders to assist in developing new service initiatives. He is the co-founder of Service America, a national program that placed cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with AmeriCorps members to address critical community needs. He has developed the Leadership Forum for National Service Executives at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs, which offers graduate level course work designed to meet the needs of senior leaders in national service from throughout the country. He has served as a board member and immediate past Chair of America’s Service Commissions.

From 1970-72, Bill served as a VISTA Volunteer in Walla Walla, WA, helping migrant farm workers establish their own businesses. In Spokane, where he was a VISTA Volunteer Leader, he helped form a regional legal services network. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Bill received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island. In 2011 The White House named Bill a Champion of Change- Service Innovator.


Cathryn Berger Kaye, CBK Associates and ABCD Books

Kaye is delighted to return to the National Service-Learning Conference. Kaye travels the world providing professional development, conference keynotes, and exceptional education resources on topics including service-learning, 21st century skills, engaging teaching methods, social and emotional development, demystifying Common Core Standards, curriculum development, environmental issues, and literature connections. Kaye is the author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning (Revised & Updated Second Edition), and Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands and Make A Splash! A Teen Guide to Saving our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands both written with Philippe Cousteau and EarthEcho International, along with numerous articles and blogs.


Dr. Brenda Cassilleous, Commissioner of Education

Since her appointment as Commissioner of Education in 2010, Dr. Brenda Cassellius has endeavored to enact comprehensive education reform that will benefit every child throughout Minnesota. In her 23-year career as a classroom teacher, administrator and superintendent in school systems both in Minnesota and Tennessee, Dr. Brenda Cassellius led reform, redesign and change efforts that put students first, focused on achievement, and have resulted in better outcomes for all students. Dr. Cassellius believes that change can happen quickly if it is purposeful, collaborative, and grounded in effective strategies.


Chris Coleman, Saint Paul Mayor

Coleman took office as Saint Paul’s Mayor in 2006 after several years as a city councilmember, community and neighborhood leader. Immediately, Mayor Coleman set forth initiatives to make Saint Paul the most livable city in America. His priorities include working to close the achievement gap, creating sustainable and responsible budgets, and investing in the infrastructure of Saint Paul. Bridging the education gap for children has been at the core of Mayor Coleman’s agenda. Coleman understands that the future and current success of Saint Paul depends on our ability to equip our students with the tools for success from cradle to career.


Greg Forbes Siegman, Founder, The 11-10-02 Foundation and Co-Author, The Silhouette Man

Siegman founded The Brunch Bunch Mentoring Program, in hopes to bridge divides within his community. After 70 weeks, he expanded his efforts and started The 11-10-02 Foundation. Now in its 18th year, the volunteer-run organization funds grants and college scholarships. For his service, Siegman was named one of America's Daily Points of Light and has been featured by media including Education Week and Good Morning America. A former educator, he has spoken or served as Scholar-in-Residence at schools, organizations & conferences in different countries. Siegman is co-author of The Silhouette Man. The student edition (The First Thirty) was the NSDLC Multicultural Relations Book of the Year. His website is www.GregForbes.com. His conference session is sponsored by FLY - the digital travel and lifestyle magazine produced by Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.


Anas Ghanim, sophomore at Qatar University in Doha, Qatar

Ghanim is passionate about service learning, culture exchange, human rights, and youth development.  He emceed the 2014 National Service-Learning Conference and presented two engaged learning workshops in 2015 on joy and service-learning.  Ghanim was among the very few youth to attend the 2015 United Nations Summit to adopt sustainable development goals.  He is highly motivated to work closely with youth and loves to bring joy to others.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Director, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. Department of Education

Rev. Girton-Mitchell, J.D., began her service as the Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education on December 13, 2010. She provides leadership to help meet the goal of engaging community-based organizations, both faith-based and secular, in building a culture of high expectations and support for education. Rev. Girton-Mitchell also works as part of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to implement its mission in cooperation with the Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at 12 other Federal agencies.


Julia Sewell, international motivational speaker, life mentor, and founder of S.W.A.G. (Scholars Working to Ascend a Generation)

Sewell, who began her speaking career at age 12, has brought her messages of empowerment to more than seven countries and has spoken at over 200 events, conferences, trainings, and workshops. Sewell seeks to change the world by training up youth giving them the tools of empowerment needed to change their worlds. Sewell created a youth development curricula: S.W.A.G. which uses the innovative arts to teach scholars leadership, success, and empowerment skills. S.W.A.G. has been implemented in more than 20 schools in Minnesota and has plans to expand to every major city across the United States.


James Toole, Compass Institute and the University of Minnesota

Toole is a global change-maker that works with youth, social entrepreneurs, governments, teachers, and NGOs to support a new generation of leaders that are designing innovative solutions to pressing social challenges. Over the past decade, he has worked with more than 300 youth leaders from 60 countries. His curriculum on social innovation and entrepreneurship for the International Youth Foundation is translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, and Arabic and used in 22 countries. He is also the co-founder (with his wife) of NYLC’s Professional Development Department.


Nontombi Naomi Tutu

The challenges of growing black and female in apartheid South Africa has led Nontombi Naomi Tutu to her present as an activist for human rights. Those experiences taught how much we all lose when any of us is judged purely on physical attributes. 

Tutu is the third child Archbishop Desmond and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and has also lived in Lesotho, the United Kingdom, and the United States. She was educated in Swaziland, the US and England, and has divide her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the 'daughter of ...' has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to find her own place in the world. 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.

Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa to being program coordinator for programs on race & gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, and was a part of the Institute's delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.


Madison Vorva, Ponoma College

Vorva is majoring in public policy with a concentration in environmental economics. She has been honored at the Teen Choice Awards for making a difference in the world. At age 11, after learning how the use of palm oil by U.S. bakers could contribute to deforestation and orangutan habitat destruction, Vorva (and fellow Girl Scout Rhiannon Tomtishen) launched a campaign to convince the Girl Scouts to commit to using deforestation-free palm oil in their cookies.

Vorva has drawn national media attention, and the backing of Dr. Jane Goodall. She has been designated a U.N. Forest Hero and, in 2014, Vorva was an invited speaker at the United Nation’s celebration of International Forests Day. She is also a national youth leader for Goodall’s Roots & Shoots movement.

In 2014, Vorva was chosen from 5,000 applicants as the U.S. youth delegate to the United Nations' Education for Sustainable Development Conference in Japan, where she collaborated with 48 other countries’ representatives to draft the youth statement and recommendations. Vorva was also a recipient of a PBI Summer Film Grant in 2014 from Pomona, traveling to Cambodia that summer to film Mu Sochua, a democratic opposition leader and voice for women and land-grab victims.

In January 2015, she was appointed to serve on State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board, which grants $5 million to youth-led service learning proposals across the country. Later in 2015, she went to Costa Rica to reconvene with Goodall and bring community mapping tools to a couple hundred high school students.

Coming soon! The 2016 National Service-Learning Conference Session Guide.