2011 Archive

Our 2011 theme will be TEDxYouth@Hewitt: BREAKthrough! All of our speakers and performers are young adults who at one time pushed a barrier or summoned up the guts to live authentically.

Lauren “Lo” Anderson

19 year old Lo Anderson is taking her place among plethora of amazing artists in New York City as a voice of gentle strength and true vulnerability. Emerging out of the Youth Poetry Scene, she is operating under a motivation to continue to elevate and push the boundaries of spoken word. Beginning her journey in the winter of 2008, Lo competed in her first competition and made final stage of the Knicks Poetry Slam that year sharing stage with 14 other amazing poets at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Thereafter Lo committed herself to furthering her arts through Urban Word NYC. After one year of honing her skills she came back for 2010 slam season and won 2nd place in the Knicks Poetry Slam, following that success by making final stage of Urban Word NYC’s Annual Poetry Slam. Urban Word gave her the platform to explore organizational work and she continued to give back to them throughout the 2010 year by become co-president of their Youth Board. Finally after such a long journey with the organization, Lo took one of her final youth competition opportunities by winning Grand Slam Champion of the 2011 competition at the Apollo Theater, becoming one of 6 poets to compete/represent New York City in the national competition Brave New Voices. At Brave New Voices, she joined her teammates on final stage at the San Francisco Opera House and finished 2nd in the nation. While outshining the competition with her talent for poetry, Anderson, does not consider herself merely a poet. She has a true love and appreciation for all performing arts. She’s taught herself all she knows about playing guitar, singing, and loves fusing music into all that she does.

Marc Elliot

Two days after Marc Elliot was born, he was diagnosed with a rare birth defect called Hirschsprung’s disease. Hirschsprung’s had given him almost no working intestines, and no ability to digest food on his own power. Despite the odds of death or a horrible quality of life, one brave surgeon, Dr. Jessie Ternberg, took Marc under her wings, took a chance, and saved his life. After spending the first six months of his life in the hospital, undergoing seven experimental surgeries, and followed by several more years in and out of medical facilities in St. Louis, Missouri, Marc became known as the “miracle baby.”

However, Marc’s challenges did not end there. At the age of nine, he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome: a neurological disorder that causes him to make involuntary motor and vocal tics. As Marc grew older, his tics manifested in many different forms, from ‘ticcing’ inappropriate words, to blurting out random noises, barking like a dog, and chomping his teeth.

Over the next ten years, Marc struggled to live a normal life in the suburbs of St. Louis. Aside from the scars that stretched across his abdomen and the frequent outbursts of tics and and offensive language, Marc lived with a special enthusiasm for life. He was a talented thespian, played tons of sports, and even was elected student body president of his high school.

Marc attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in biology and pursued a pre-medicine path in hopes of following the footsteps of the pediatric surgeon who saved his life. Upon graduating in May of 2008, Marc embarked upon a speaking tour around the nation. It was just something to do before he became a doctor. His subject was tolerance.

In his presentation, “What Makes You Tic?,” he took his experiences of not fitting in, of not feeling comfortable with others, to discuss fundamental lessons about tolerance—how to live with our own, and others’ differences. Little did he know this would become his calling.

Over the past three years, he has spoken to hundreds of groups and organizations, reaching out to over 75,000 individuals in the US and internationally. At the age of 26, Marc has now found a way to use his own story, and his triumph over handicaps as a way of helping individuals around the world overcome think about tolerance in a new light.

Morgan Evans

Morgan Evans is a junior at North Hunterdon High School. This young singer/songwriter is self-taught on guitar and is currently writing for her first EP. Morgan’s aspirations include pursuing music and attending university in England. Morgan also uploads vocal videos to youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/benlearawk


Carolyn Gregoire

Carolyn Gregoire is the Assistant Editor of Huffington Post High School, The Huffington Post’s new section dedicated to teens and the issues that are important to them.

She studied philosophy at McGill University in Montreal, graduating with distinction and first-class honors. After a stint as Arts & Entertainment Editor of her college newspaper, she went on to intern at BlackBook Magazine, Seventeen, and Vanity Fair. With a passion for interviewing and arts & culture journalism, she’s been thrilled to have the opportunity to interview talents such as Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Renner, SNL cast member Chris Kattan, Grammy nominee Natasha Bedingfield, and indie band The Temper Trap. Her writing has appeared in undergraduate journals of philosophy and sociology, and such publications as The McGill Tribune, BlackBook Magazine, seventeen.com, midnightpoutine.ca, BettyConfidential.com, and the Huffington Post.

Shortly after graduating and moving to New York City, she began her career at the Huffington Post. She is now thrilled to have the opportunity to support high school journalists and provide teens with a platform to share their voices.

Zoe Himmel and Chinelo Okpala

Chinelo Okpala attends the Hewitt School. She loves expressing herself through dance. She also love to do other arts including acting, singing, and “i dunno” regular art. She looks for inspiration through everything. Dance is a movement that she can just find what she feels and interpret it for others. Her style is very diverse, blending hip hop, African, ballet, modern, jazz and much more. She participates in many of her dance school’s shows, did a partner performance in the school’s talent show with her friend Zoe and is a co-head of the upper school’s dance club. Chinelo studies dance at Bonniis Dance Showcase and the Alvin Ailey Dance School.

Zoe Himmel also is in the tenth grade at the Hewitt School. Though she hasn’t taken any dance classes, she loves to express herself through dance and music. She is a member of an all girl singing group outside of school called “G*Pow”, which is an unsigned, 3-member, girl empowered group. She loves to write and is a singer/songwriter. She has done many performances outside of school including for the “I Will Graduate” event at F.I.T, for the American Breast Cancer Society and much more. She performed in the school’s talent show with Chinelo and is co-head of the upper school’s dance club with Chinelo.

Luke Holden

Luke Holden was born and raised in Cape Elizabeth, a small town on the coast of Maine. Luke left home to study finance and management at Georgetown University (McDonough ’07), but remained a Mainer at heart. After two years in finance in New York, Luke decided it was about time to bring a taste of Maine to Manhattan. He teamed up with his father, Jeff, to pair his passion for Maine with some business instincts he had acquired along the way. Luke always wanted to start and run his own business, but he never would have guessed it would be in the restaurant world. In the spring of 2009 — the height of the recession — he began to flesh out a business model for Luke’s Lobster. It made so much sense: he’s from Maine, his favorite job of all time was being a lobsterman during summer vacations, and he has a real passion and respect for the Maine lobster industry. Being able to return to that passion while working with his father (from whom Luke’s Lobster gets its seafood) was a no-brainer, especially since the family connection would ensure top quality lobster, low prices and a commitment to sustainable fishing practices. Luke’s Lobster opened its doors on October 1, 2009, and it was an immediate success, drawing huge crowds and praise from the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Business Week, the TODAY show and many more. Within 20 months, Luke opened 5 more lobster shacks: NYC’s Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Financial District, Washington, D.C., and one on wheels — the Nauti Mobile — which Zagat recently named the #1 food truck in NYC.

Ashley “Ajay” Johnson

In a world where people rather spend time fighting against love than looking for it, a young cyborg by way of the Bronx is trying to fashion the romance back into our lives where it belongs: neatly in our shirt pockets. After performing at the Urban Word NYC Slam Finals two years in a row in the world famous Apollo Theater and both the Nuyorican Poets Café and Bowery Poetry Club, Ajay Johnson decided to bottle up her poetry.

The result: Love and Other Black Magicks, her first book of poems, imbued with all sorts of sorcery, dimensions of love, and everything in between. It has unconfirmed healing powers.

Founder of publishing company and artist development agency, evoLution NYC, Ajay is helping artists build their professional sides and self-sufficiency while quelling fear of this fire nation.

With dreams to teach high school students, Ajay currently is attending Drew University majoring in English and Linguistics. Her word magicks captivate audiences and students alike whilst distracting them from her awkward swag .

Ryan Letada

Ryan Letada is a foodie and social entrepreneurship junkie. As a Fulbright Fellow, he explored sustainable city design, and mass eviction and relocation of urban poor communities in the Philippines. With a passion for rethinking education, he co-built Education Kindling or eKindling – a social enterprise in the Philippines focused on bringing learning technologies and new ways of digital learning to children, classrooms and communities across the Philippines. Ultimately, his life goal is to squeeze social good out of awesome ideas, and to make others and the world betters as result of his presence.



Jamaal Nelson

Jamaal Nelson was born and raised in the South Bronx. Growing-up he faced many of the well known challenges endemic to inner-city living: drugs, gangs, and crushing poverty. Despite these challenges, including a severe leaning disability, Jamaal was able to earn an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and an M.DIV from Harvard University. Jamaal has a deep passion to make a positive difference in his community and was recently elected to the office of District Leader serving the West Harlem community. Jamaal is an ordained clergy-person married to an amazing woman and has two beautiful daughters.



April Riegler

April, while on vacation in Rwanda in 2007, met a little orphaned girl who in an instant changed the entire course of her life, forever. This little girl (the very one in this picture) only wanted to be held. Her need for love and attention was so deep that April spent the rest of the week thinking about what she could do to provide for this little girl and for others like her. Within a matter of days, she decided to found a mentoring program and every day since July 2007 she has worked to make this possible. To build Hope Shines, April started with her friends and family by asking for advice about the life lessons they had learned from their families. Then she talked to other nonprofits asking how they got started. She built a curriculum and then started recruiting, fundraising and collecting item donations. Within one year, she returned to Rwanda and with 6 other volunteers launched the first camp in 2008!

Since then, Hope Shines has continued to grow and mature under her leadership, creativity, enthusiasm and can-do attitude. Her motivation is to never let down the kids that Hope Shines works with. She says, “We tell them, ‘See you next summer!’ and if we say we are coming back – we do it. It’s that simple. I never want to let a child down by breaking this promise.”

April learned how to manage and build a nonprofit from seven years of corporate experience in retail buying. She holds a BS from Virginia Tech and an MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from Parsons, The New School and Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum in New York City. She runs Hope Shines on a volunteer basis and without salary.

Baruch Shemtov

Baruch Shemtov is an entrepreneur and media personality. Since the age of 15, he has designed and distributed a line of neckties around the world. He is the host of a series of interviews profiling leaders from a variety of sectors including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Russell Simmons, Ivanka Trump, Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Barney Frank, and others. Baruch is now working with select corporate sponsors to produce premium video content for digital distribution. Baruch graduated from Harvard College in 2009 and is set to begin Harvard Business School in 2012.

Tammy Tibbets

Tammy Tibbets entered the not-for-profit world through the journalism field, when her final reporting assignment in college opened her eyes to the dire needs of children in post-war Liberia. In 2003, she started as a college newspaper reporter, and then became a magazine intern. Upon graduating Phi Beta Kappa from The College of New Jersey, Hearst Magazines hired her as its youngest web site editor. She’s now the social media voice of the largest teen magazine in the country, Seventeen. Tammy works full-time while leading She’s the First full-time; among her many duties, she works on the business model of She’s the First and is pursuing the funding to make it her sole focus in 2012.

Before She’s the First was even a thought, Tammy volunteered as Director of Operations for a foundation that sponsored children in Liberia. Her travels to Liberia–mixed with the experience of launching DonateMyDress.org in her day job, the reporting of Nicholas Kristof, and the videos of The Girl Effect campaign–inspired her to create shesthefirst.org, to campaign for girls’ education and connect donors with quality sponsorship programs. In 2010, Tammy co-founded the GIRLS WHO ROCK concert, benefiting She’s the First, with Cynthia Hellen, which grew from her experience launching the Ultimate Prom concert video series for Seventeen.

Once a recipient of New York Women in Communications’ Glamour Ruth Whitney Scholarship, Tammy now is the youngest-serving board member of the New York Women in Communications Foundation. Ruth Whitney, the legendary editor of Glamour who upheld a mantra of “style and substance,” is one of her most powerful inspirations. In 2010, Tammy and She’s the First were recognized at Glamour‘s Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall, just one year after She’s the First’s launch in November 2009. Tammy was also named a Social Change Ambassador for Levi’s Shape What’s to Come campaign and writes regularly for the Huffington Post Impact section.

She’s the first in her family to move to New York City and travel to Africa, two adventures that completely changed her life.

Starre Vartan

Starre Vartan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Eco Chick and its sister site, Eco Chick Escapes, all about ethical travel and style.

She’s the author of The Eco-Chick Guide to Life (St. Martin’s Press), a pro blogger and oft-quoted green living expert who has been featured in the New York Times, Elle, Glamour and Self magazines.

She is currently a contributor to The Huffington Post, Inhabitat, and Hearst’s The Daily Green, and is editor-at-large for Coco Eco Magazine and contributor-at-large for Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine, and the lifestyle columnist for MNN.com.

Previous positions have included columnist for Audubon magazine, Editor of Greenopia.com, and science writer at Friends of Animals. She holds a BS in Geology and a BA in English from Syracuse University and an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University.

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