Drew Kugler


Along working on being a good dad and husband, Drew makes a living coaching and teaching in all kinds of organizations around the world on the ever-challenging issues of human communication, leadership, and genuine collaboration.

Part of Drew’s living is made by watching and listening to people and the groups in which they work. He explains that it is professionally frightening to see such widespread dysfunction in places where, with different choices made, exciting and productive activities could and should flourish.

In the spirit of TED, Drew has an idea that he’d like to share about why the dysfunction is so profound and suggest specific actions to begin to reverse it. There’s a saying that if you’re stuck in a hole, the first step to getting out is to stop digging. Drew’s idea helps do just that.

Blake Simmons


Dr. Blake Simmons is the Director of the Biological Systems and Engineering Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (biosciences.lbl.gov). He also serves as the Chief Science and Technology Officer and Vice-President of the Deconstruction Division at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (www.jbei.org), a $259M, ten-year DOE Office of Science funded project tasked with the development and realization of next-generation “drop-in” biofuels produced from sustainable, non-food lignocellulosic biomass. He is currently serving as the Chief Science and Technology Officer and the Vice-President of the Deconstruction Division at JBEI.

Dr. Simmons will address in his talk the increase of CO2 emissions and greenhouse gasses. He is looking for a path a low-carbon bio-economy, and he will provide a possible solution.

Vincent Morton


Hailing from the Boniwood subdivision of Clinton, MD, Vincent has found a way to make the most out of every opportunity he’s been given. Through hard work and faith, he’s been able to accomplish all of his life goals–early in life. Believing that there are more than enough opportunities for those willing to work for them, Vincent teaches people to use every situation in their lives to their advantage. He is the first person in his family to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania—an Ivy League institution. He is also a proud graduate of Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD. He’s a dedicated family man and a believer that taking the first step makes everything you want to approach you.

Vincent plans to awe the audience with his life story, and he will explain how perseverance and prayer changed his life and how it can change yours.

Brandan “B-mike” Odums


Brandan “B-mike” Odums is a prolific visual artist and filmmaker whose stories and bold statements transform minds while turning images of blight into hope. In 2013, Brandan completed a series of graffiti murals depicting iconic African American civil rights leaders in a public housing complex in New Orleans’ 9th Ward. Given the name #ProjectBe, the space received national attention bringing spectators from all over the country to see the powerful art before the complex was demolished. In 2014, Brandan collaborated with 30 artists to produce #ExhibitBe, another graffiti exhibit on a local blighted housing complex. #ExhibitBe, “a community-centered celebration of street art’s transformative energy,” became the largest street art gathering in the South, welcoming over 30,000 visitors.

B-mike will talk about transforming the power of art and activism through his artworks Project Be, Exhibit Be, and Studio Be.

Tinashe Blanchet


Tinashe Blanchet is a former high school math teacher with over 12 years of experience in education and teacher training. Tinashe has built a strong reputation as a skilled communicator and tech-savvy educator and has presented at local, state, national, and international educational conferences. This year, she attended the International Congress on Mathematics Education (ICME) in Hamburg, Germany with a travel award granted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). With a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Tinashe has also taught pre-service teachers at the University of New Orleans.

Tinashe will be talking about the new technology implemented in today’s education, and what it will take for the United States to catch up with other countries regarding mathematics.

Kelly Orians


Kelly Orians is a recent graduate of UCLA School of Law where she specialized in public interest law and policy, business law and policy, and critical race studies. While in law school Kelly focused on developing strategies to reduce mass incarceration through community economic development. Before law school, Kelly worked as a Project Coordinator at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL) managing a statewide advocacy campaign to End Life Without Parole Sentencing for Juveniles (JLWOP).

Kelly will be explaining how prisoners transition from Louisiana incarceration to making a living in the real world.  She notices that freedom is not synonymous with equal opportunity, and she seeks to find a solution to this problem.

Jade Bender


After graduating high school at 16 years old, Jade took two gap years to pursue acting. In those two years, she dealt with depression, self-harm, and sexual assault. With the help of her friends and family, she was able to recover and regain her confidence. After that, she decided to attend Tulane University to receive a higher education and have a real college experience. Now she is a freshman at TU and loving it.

Jade was raped on her 18th birthday and will talk about her experience. She will shed light on the realities of abuse and why it should be discussed instead of repressed.

Mariana Deluera Canchola


Mariana is a junior at Tulane University, majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. Originally from Mexico City, Mariana has lived in five different countries including Romania, Bolivia, Belize, Mexico, and the U.S., As a result, she has been exposed to diverse diaspora communities, and has managed to discover a whole new meaning to the word immigrant. Mariana has volunteered with the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans in their outreach efforts to the Mexican community that resides in diverse cities in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Through this, she has engaged with the immigrant community in hopes of further comprehending their plight and daily struggles, as well as hoping to understand the diverse causes that drive immigration and how to best empower the immigrant community to achieve their full potential.