Meet the Speakers

Keynote Speakers

Karen Baker

Karen Baker, Chief Service Officer, CaliforniaVolunteers

Baker was appointed by Former Governor Schwarzenegger to serve as the first-in-the-nation state cabinet Secretary of Service and Volunteering on February 26, 2008. Prior to this appointment, she served the Schwarzenegger Administration as the executive director of CaliforniaVolunteers. Karen brings to the organization 20 years of innovative leadership in all facets of the service and volunteering sector, including local and national non-profits and federal agencies.

Previously, Karen served as the managing partner for Valley Vision, a Sacramento-based “action tank” that addresses regional economic, environmental and social issues. She also served as the director of innovation at Share Our Strength, a national anti-hunger non-profit located in Washington, D.C. Karen served as director for program coordination and special projects for the Corporation for National Service, and was appointed by President Clinton as the deputy director for AmeriCorps*VISTA.

Elizabeth Bailey

Elizabeth Bailey, Interpretive Specialist, Bolsa Chica and Huntington State Beaches

Elizabeth Bailey is the Interpreter for Huntington and Bolsa Chica State Beaches. California State Park Interpreters don’t interpret languages, they interpret the rich and diverse aspects of their parks to the visitors who recreate there. Elizabeth has been with California State Parks for over 3 years. She started off as an intern and worked her way up to become the head of the Education and Volunteer Section at her beaches. Part of Elizabeth’s job at Huntington and Bolsa Chica State Beaches is to act as the volunteer coordinator. She oversees over 13,000 beach clean-up volunteers a year to help keep our beaches and ocean clean.

Robert Benz

Robert Benz, Founder & Executive Vice President, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives

Robert is responsible for policy, program and strategic development for Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). He was the leading creative source of FDFI’s core philosophy for an educational approach to human trafficking as well as initiatives such as: the Frederick Douglass Dialogues, the Abolition Day Project, its curriculum - History, Human Rights and the Power of One and Globalize 13. Robert was first introduced to the issue of human trafficking when reading a September 2003 cover story in National Geographic Magazine called, 21st-Century Slaves. Believing that the only choices were to carry on as before or to become involved in eradicating modern slavery, he proposed creating an advocacy organization to his business associate and longtime friend, Ken Morris, that would leverage Ken’s unique family history, as a direct descendant of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, in order to bring widespread awareness and real knowledge to the anti-trafficking cause.  Robert is a board member for the survivor-based non-profit, There is Hope for Me and is an advisory board member for the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Steven Alexander Culbertson

Steven Alexander Culbertson, President and CEO, YSA (Youth Service America)

Steven Alexander Culbertson was appointed in 1996 as the President and CEO of YSA (Youth Service America), an international nongovernmental organization that activates children and youth, ages 5-25, to find their voice, take action, and have impact on the world’s biggest problems.

For two years in a row, the Nonprofit Times named him to its list of "The 50 most powerful and influential leaders" in the sector, saying, "Culbertson has helped to position volunteering and young people as an issue and a national priority." Steve led the international expansion of National Youth Service Day into Global Youth Service Day in 2000, and YSA now coordinates GYSD activities in more than 100 countries on six continents. In 2008, he developed Semester of Service, an academic framework that links Martin Luther King Day of Service (January) to Global Youth Service Day (April) with service-learning projects of "Duration and Intensity." In 2016 he launched a new YSA initiative to activate the world’s youth to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Anas Ghanim

Anas Ghanim, 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.

Merrit Jones

Merrit Jones, Director of Partnerships, Student Voice

Merrit serves as the Director of Partnerships at Student Voice, a national student-lead nonprofit organization that is working to strengthen the student movement for more equitable schools. Merrit discovered her passion for service-learning and youth voice after attending NYLC’s National Youth Leadership Training in the summer of 2015. Over the past year she completed a year-long service-learning project that she turned into the non-profit Student Space. She is passionate about storytelling, policy, and youth empowerment. Merrit is currently taking a gap year to pursue those passions full-time by traveling to talk with students across the United States, researching and influencing policy, and facilitating youth-oriented events and conferences. In 2016, her travels led her to have conversations at the White House, with students in rural Kentucky, business leaders at Googleplex, and many more places in between.

Ravi Karkara

Ravi Karkara, Global Expert Advisor Children and Youth at the UN, Millennium Campaign - MyWorld2015 Child and Youth Focal Point

Ravi is a trained Social Worker with commitment to advancing human rights, gender equality, inclusion and social justice. Ravi has served as the Global Advisor on Youth + Partnership with United Nations Millennium Campaign and UN-HABITAT, based in New York. He is the lead author of the groundbreaking report “Youth 21: Building the Architecture of Youth Engagement in the UN System,” by UN-Habitat, which contributed to the creation of United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. Ravi represented UN-HABITAT as the Co-chair of the UN Interagency Network on Youth Development. Government of Sri Lanka appointed him as the Global Advisor to the World Conference on Youth in 2014, focusing on youth perspective in developing post-2015 development agenda. He has relentlessly supported United Nations SG’s My World 2015 survey in reaching close to 2 million youth. Ravi has been co-chairing the Policy Strategy Group for World We Want 2015 - a UN & CSO post-2015 data-curation-visualization platform.

He is serving as Strategic Adviser Partnership Beijing+20, Office of the Assistant Secretary-General/Deputy Executive Director, UN Women. His has committed his lifetime to women’s empowerment, strengthening human rights of girls, young women and women, gender equality and social inclusion. He is a founding member of the MenEngage Alliance and Young Men 4 Gender Equality. He has worked with several organizations on gender equality with a specific focus on children, youth and women including UN-Women, UNICEF, UNMC, Save the Children – has been successfully advocating role of boys and men in gender equality from a life-cycle approach.


Dr. James C. Kielsmeier, NYLC Founder

Jim 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.

Connor Kirkpatrick

Connor Kirkpatrick, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In 2002, Connor Kirkpatrick’s family started Shining Hope Farms, a non-profit organization that serves children and adults with disabilities through hippotherapy. Because of the program he developed a passion for youth advocacy and engagement. He has been honored to serve as the co-chair of the Human Sexuality Committee for the North Carolina Youth Legislative Assembly, an ambassador and junior staff member for the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference, a member of the Leadership Institute, and a missionary in Cambodia working with orphans.His philosophy is that the simple things in life make a big impact: a smile, a conversation, a “Have a great day!”

Royce Mann

Royce Mann, student, poet, and actor

Royce was vaulted to fame at age 14 in the summer of 2016 when his original slam poem, "White Boy Privilege", won first place at his school and went viral worldwide on the internet with multiple celebrities and millions of viewers sharing it on social media with their comments of thanks and praise. He was interviewed on all major US TV networks, CNN and CNN International as well as various radio and print media and on talk shows such as The Preachers and The TD Jakes Show. His second poem, "All Lives Matter, But..." also received worldwide positive attention and was released on a new dance/music video by DanceOn featuring Ian Eastwood. His third poem, "Rise Up", was performed on Lifestream Univision for the Rise Up As One event at the San Diego border. He has acted in numerous national and regional commercials and won the 2016 Atlanta Film Festival Pitch Competition.

Amy Meuers

Amy Meuers, CEO, National Youth Leadership Council

Amy is the CEO of the National Youth Leadership Council, a national nonprofit organization that for more than 30 years has transformed classrooms, empowered teachers, and captivated students by leading the way in providing high-quality, dynamic service-learning content to school districts, classrooms, out-of-school youth programs, and everything in between. Amy has a strong passion and commitment to the work of NYLC and the role that young people can play in change the world. Over the past decade, she has authored numerous articles and blogs on service-learning and youth engagement, has led 13 National Service-Learning Conferences, service-learning World and Indigenous Forums, and is an active volunteer in her community. She is committed to transforming community into classroom and inspiring all young people to Serve. Learn. Change the world.®

Kenneth B. Morris

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., Founder & President, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives

Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. is descended from two of the most important names in American history: he is the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington. His life until the year 2007 could be described as distinguished yet decisively disengaged from his lineage until Providence called. Ken’s career and life path are driven by a mission to end human trafficking and all forms of servitude with a clear focus on his organization’s mission, to Advance Freedom through Knowledge and Strategic Action. He could not have predicted that one day he would so fully embrace and be defined by the characteristics that so closely defined his famous ancestors.  Ken is now the President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI), a public charity that endeavors to create a modern Abolitionist Movement in schools all over the country through the vehicle of Service-Learning curricula called History, Human Rights and the Power of One. FDFI operates on the belief that young people play critical roles on both sides of the Contemporary Slavery spectrum: at one end, they are the most vulnerable to becoming its victims and, at the other, the most qualified to lead its demise.

Ken received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of La Verne January, 2012. In June 2012, he received the National Park Services Network To Freedom Underground Railroad Frederick Douglass Legacy Award. In January 2014, he was awarded the Women’s E-News 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism. In April 2016, Ken received the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights’ Anne Frank Change the World Award.

Robert Benz

Donya Nasser, Student University of London, former U.N. Youth Ambassador

Donya Nasser recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. John’s University where she studied Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies as an Honors student and McNair Scholar. She is passionate about advocating for gender equality and reproductive justice on both a domestic and international level; empowering women, youth, and minorities to become civically engaged and run for office, and contributing to Middle East policy while combating stigmas and stereotypes. She has interned for the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, and the Brennan Center for Justice.

Donya served as the 2015-2016 U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations and a Truman-Albright Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is currently the youngest Board Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Board. She is a 2016 Humanity in Action Fellow, 2015 TRIALS Scholar, and 2014 PPIA Fellow. She has previously served as a member of the Advocates for Youth Young Women of Color Leadership Council, the President of the College Democrats of New York, and AAUW Youth Representative to the United Nations. A Truman Scholar, she intends to pursue a joint degree and prepare herself for a career in public service and foreign affairs so to be in a position to better serve women and underrepresented communities across the country and the world. She has supported these marginalized groups through her academic successes, leadership advancements, and social media opportunities.

Donya believes in the power of galvanizing younger generations, who embody the potential of our future to secure equality and justice for all. She is a 2016 Bustle Upstart Award Honoree, 2015 recipient of the WIN Young Women of Achievement Award in Service/Nonprofit Advocacy, and a 2014 Glamour Magazine Top 10 College Woman and L'Oréal College Woman of Worth. She has been featured on ABC, Al-Hurra, Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post, the L.A. Times, MSNBC, and Voice of America. She was named one of CDS' 2016 "30 Under 30 Leaders of Tomorrow" and Persian Tech Entrepreneurs and Forbes' "100 Most Influential Persian Entrepreneurs and Innovators of 2015". She has been a speaker for the Iranian American Women Foundation, the International Association for Volunteer Effort, AYUDH, the United Nations, and many more conferences. Donya is currently attending SOAS, University of London as a recipient of both the John Loiello and Kamran Djam Scholarships to earn an MA in Iranian Studies.

Matt Severson

Matt Severson, Founder, The School Fund

Matt is currently on the Business Development team at X: The Moonshot Factory and was previously on the Business Development team at Google. He has led partnerships for some of X’s and Google's most exciting new business ideas such as Google Helpouts, Project Loon, Google Cultural Institute, and a confidential early-stage clean energy project. In his 20%, Matt founded on an effort to partner with Hollywood to change the way computer science is portrayed in television and film, all with a goal of encouraging more girls and underrepresented minorities to enter the field. He also founded The School Fund, an international education nonprofit that crowd-funds secondary school student scholarships throughout the developing world. Severson's work with The School Fund has been featured in Fast Company, The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, Good Magazine and was recognized by President Clinton at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University meeting.

Whitney Stewart

Whitney Stewart, Boys & Girls Clubs of America

Whitney is Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2015-16 National Youth of the Year and a dedicated teen leadership advocate. She is an alumnus of Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota County in Florida and cites her Club and its positive environment as a turning point in her life, which inspired her to find positive outlets for her feelings. At the Club, she became involved in many activities, including serving as president of the Keystone Club, BGCA’s teen leadership group, and on the BGCA National Teen Advisory Board. She earned exceptional grades in school, where she also excelled in Junior R.O.T.C., attaining the rank of Regimental Commander, the school’s top leadership position. She also started SEED to SOIL, a club that educates students and parents about healthy lifestyles and sustainable agriculture. Today she is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a degree in economics and political science.

Youth Emcees

Ayah Al-Ansari

Ayah Al-Ansari, Qatar Foundation International

Al-Ansari is a junior at Raba’a Al-Adewiya School in Doha, Qatar. An aspiring doctor, she enjoys debating, volunteering, and giving back to her community.


Madison Furnas, Benson High School

Furnas is a junior at Benson High School in Benson, Arizona. She is involved in FBLA, National Road Safety Ambassadors, Student Council, National Honor Society, Miss Helldorado 2016, basketball, boxing, track, and is the Co-Chair of Distracted Driving on the Arizona Governor’s Youth Commission.


Jennifer Lee, Oregon Episcopal School

Lee attends Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Oregon. She is a first-generation Vietnamese American with a passion for service.


Arianna Rahimian, Oregon Episcopal School

Rahimian is a senior at Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Oregon. A previous attendee of the National Service-Learning Conference, she is excited to share her enthusiasm for service.


Abby Schaubroeck, New Castle Senior High School

Schaubroeck is a sophomore at New Castle Senior High School in New Castle, Pennsylvania. In her free time, she enjoys ballet, reading, traveling, and the outdoors. She is also an adoptee from the People’s Republic of China.


Ricky Yoo, North Gwinnett High School

Yoo is a junior at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. He is involved in the North Gwinnett Student Leadership Team, Freshmen Mentoring Team, Relay for Life Advisory Board, Model Atlanta Regional Commission, Suwanee Youth Leaders, Smile Society, and many more. He is also a member of the NYLC YAC.