Meet our 2023 speakers and performers! Hover your mouse over each photo to read the corresponding
Dino Ambrosi, the founder of Project Reboot, is an expert at guiding teens and young adults to relationships with technology that empower them. While studying at UC Berkeley, he created a popular course called Becoming Tech Intentional which he taught to over 60 of his fellow students who reduced their screen time by an average of over 3 hours per day. After graduating in May, he embarked on a mission to spread the contents of his course to a broader audience. Through school assemblies, workshops, and consulting, he has worked with over 500 students and parents to raise awareness about the addictive potential of our devices, drive conversations around digital wellness, and deliver practical strategies to build healthy digital habits.
Elle Murata is a neuroscience PhD student at UC Santa Barbara. Her research explores the impact of sex hormones on the brain, leveraging neuroimaging to interrogate how menopause and reproductive disorders shape neural structure and function. In addition to incorporating aspects of the human condition specific to women in her research efforts, Elle is driven by the critical need for the inclusion of women and other underrepresented individuals as scientists. As a leader in Access Grads and WiSE organizations on campus, she aims to boost diversity within neuroscience and demystify the paths to becoming involved in research and applying to graduate school. Outside of the lab, you can find Elle running by the beach, hiking in the Los Padres National Forest, doing yoga, or hunting down the best food spots along the Central Coast.
Vivian Storm was discovered in 2009 at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh during obtaining her Masters in Educational Leadership. Taking a chance at completely owning her talents, she entered a drag show at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. There she fell in love with the art of illusion and performance.
Her quest to spread love has afforded her the opportunity to perform in some incredible, loving, and inclusive spaces. She has a great love for hosting and performing because of the overwhelming sense of love, curiosity, self-growth, and exploration people experience through performance.
She continues to reach her Storm Chasers through her ability to connect using powerful emotionally filled songs that breathe life into everything she does!
Eight years ago Jillian Walsh experienced every mothers worst nightmare when her 7 yr. old daughter Georgia was killed in a tragic car accident. So many of us share the common experience of loss, pain and grief, which can be long lasting, hard to shake, and debilitating, however Jillian’s story shows us that in the midst of the unthinkable one can find; hope, resilience, rebirth, life changing growth and forgiveness. Jillian comes from Toronto, Canada where she lives with her husband, three boys and their miniature Dachshund named David Letterman. Jillian is thrilled to join TEDX Laguna Blanca School to engage us with her enlightening and transformative perspective on life after heartbreaking loss and pain.
With millions of followers and hundreds of millions of views across social media, Zach has become the most viral hypnotist on the internet and has hypnotized some of social media's biggest stars. He speaks and performs for audiences all across the country demonstrating the power of the human mind through his entertaining stage hypnosis shows and impactful keynote speeches.
For fifteen years Hannah Jenner was a professional sailor, racing across oceans, leading teams in the most extreme environments and setting records along the way. In 2007 Hannah led a team of amateur sailors in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and in doing so became the first female captain to successfully circumnavigate the globe in that race. Since retiring from sailing in 2017, Hannah wasted no time in continuing to pursue her passion of helping others to realize their potential. One year later she founded Achieving Awesome Nutrition & Lifestyle coaching and is qualified as a Master Health Coach specializing in sports performance nutrition and behavioral change. Hannah also coaches Crossfit, designs and manages Crossfit competitions, hosts the Before & After podcast and works in project management.
I had the privilege of growing up in the Michigan country, surrounded by so much life. We gardened, knew the name of every bird, butterfly and flower, and spent much of our time outside. I was raised with the idea that we are a part of the ecosystem and I wanted to learn everything about my wild neighbors.
That connectedness has taken me all over the world and is what eventually landed me in conservation education here in Santa Barbara. I want to help others find their passion for the planet and the understanding that we are all in this together. I’m driven by the kids I work with every day that already start with so much curiosity and a draw to nature. If we can retain that as adults, imagine what the planet may look like.
Dylan Charney is a Santa Barbara resident and a junior at Laguna Blanca School. An avid lover of the humanities, Dylan is passionate about history, English, philosophy, and politics, and he is always excited to learn and discuss these subjects with peers and mentors. Along with his academics, Dylan enjoys reading and writing fiction and science fiction, fencing, as well as being on stage as an actor, including in musicals, in Laguna’s theater program. He can also be found on the mock trial team learning about criminal justice. When not engaging in curricular and extracurricular activities, Dylan can frequently be found spending time with his loving and supportive family and dog, or being with his friends around Santa Barbara.
Fleurie Leclercq was born in Cameroon and grew up with her grandmother, "Mamie Marguerite," in the Bankole Hills of Yaounde. She is proud of her African roots and culture and thankful to her loving grandma who taught her to stand strong and keep her head up, whatever life's challenges. Under her grandma's nurturing wing, Fleurie learned to work hard and to love and care for others. Thus she grew up with the self-confidence to follow her dreams. She named her daughter, Marguerite, after her grandmother.
Through her stories, Fleurie shows the beauty and culture of Africa and creates a heroine that children can look up to. She wants to inspire children of the world, especially children of African descent, to tell their stories and be proud of their origins and culture.
Steve B. Howell
Steve Howell is a NASA senior scientist and was the project scientist for NASA's Kepler mission. Steve has worked in many aspects of astronomy including pioneering imaging devices, building new technology instruments for ground and space-based telescopes, and leading research, education, and public outreach programs. He has authored ~800 scientific publications, numerous popular and technical articles, and eight books on astronomy and astronomical instrumentation. Steve has also taught at the Harvard cooking school and written two science fiction books. He is currently working to understand the nature of exoplanets, especially potentially habitable worlds. He has always been curious about the world and how things work, and the night sky has fascinated him since he was 6 years old. Steve enjoys scientific challenges, the great outdoors, vegetarian gourmet cooking, and playing blues music. And yes, he still considers Pluto a planet.
Al Silva is a local Santa Barbara educator, yoga instructor, tutor and academic mentor whose passion lies in the intersections between the secular and spiritual dimensions of human experience. Formerly a biomedical researcher and a religious studies scholar, Al has worked in academia his entire life, and loves helping others achieve a sense of personal fulfillment along the sometimes arduous and tricky paths of academic success. When he is not helping students at Laguna Blanca, you can find him teaching (and taking) yoga classes at Yoga Soup, and enjoying the delightful food and music that Santa Barbara has to offer. His TEDx talk is based on his experience as both a long-term student and teacher, and sheds light on how education offers opportunities for personal growth and spiritual transformation.
As an entrepreneur, Adrienne Smith, an MBA graduate of Columbia Business School, is the co-founder of Harlem Hip-Hop Tours, an edutainment field trip company, founder of Gridiron Queendom, which supports women and girls who play American football, and inventor of Blitz Champz, a super fun, football-themed card game.
As an athlete, Adrienne is a wide receiver for the Boston Renegades and has been featured on Today Show, Forbes, and in an iconic ad campaign for the milk industry’s Team Milk! As one of the best wide receivers in women’s football history, Adrienne has won two gold medals and five national championships in tackle, and three silver medals with the U.S. women’s national flag football team. Whether on the field or off, in business or in sports, Adrienne’s mission is to empower and inspire others.
I am the Executive Director of Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara, an organization that empowers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). My introduction to this amazing community happened 15 years ago at the birth of my youngest daughter, Hannah. She has Down syndrome. I don’t think anyone in my life has taught me more. She’s changed me in ways I never thought possible.
My passion is making the people around me better. I’m excited by the unique talents of each person. I believe perspectives are seldom wrong or right, but often incomplete. A great day begins on my bike.
I always wanted a daughter and ended up with three. I also have a son who we adopted from Hong Kong who, like his sister, has Down syndrome. My wife, Jamie, and I have been married for 23 years.
Makena Malonso, from San Jose CA, trained at Dance Theatre International and City Ballet San Francisco. She has performed at Radio City Music Hall in the Christmas Spectacular, and joined State Street Ballet’s Professional Track program where she performed soloist roles in Paquita, Le Corsaire, and La Bayadere and toured with the company in The Nutcracker. She joined State Street Ballet as an apprentice in 2022.
John Sant’Ambrogio is a 90-year-old cellist and storyteller. He has been playing the cello for more than 50 years, over 30 of which were spent as principal cellist in the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He’s performed in over 10,000 concerts with prominent orchestras. He has also published three books, ranging from humorous personal stories to suspenseful, dramatic fiction. A natural storyteller, this musical bon vivant and humanist leaves a trail of thoughtful insight and consideration in whatever he pursues, whether writing, performing or teaching. We are thrilled to welcome him to the Laguna Blanca TEDx stage.