Meet our 2024 speakers! Hover your mouse over each photo to read the corresponding biography.
Ada Ray is a singer-songwriter and an 11th-grade student at Laguna Blanca School. Her whole life she has been a singer, influenced by her mother who is also a singer-songwriter as well as her father who exposed her to music from a young age. Music is a key aspect of Ada’s life which has helped her express herself and worked her through personal hardships. Ada’s passion for music has led her to perform for school events in our Stage Band class as well as her mother’s home concerts and numerous gigs around Santa Barbara. She has also created her own music platform on Instagram where she shares videos of her original creations.
Bridget Kyeremateng, a global storyteller leading Twitch’s Inclusive Marketing, has amplified over 1,000 diverse creators across digital platforms such as Tumblr, Spotify, and Twitch. Born in Italy to Ghanaian parents, Bridget spent nearly 15 years as an undocumented immigrant in the US; leveraging her experience, Bridget’s work is inspired by illuminating and amplifying underserved talent. Bridget has collaborated with influential figures such as Big Freedia, Kali Uchis, Audrey Nuna, and more.
At a human level, Bridget is a passionate soul who knows no bounds to expanding her talents. She has led panels in DC & NYC and co-founded a collective, Applauding Power, to uplift POC women.
She is a DJ, plant enthusiast, lover of fitness, and avid traveler. A recent Forbes 30 under 30 listee, Bridget inspires change, embodies innovation, and challenges the status quo. Bridget currently resides in Brooklyn with her fiancé.
D.J. Javier is a Filipino-American fine artist and graphic designer blending the lines between art and design, using his Southern California upbringing and Filipino heritage to lead his work, whether analog or digital. Some noteable clients include Vans, Los Angeles Rams, Adidas, Stance, Amazon, Shake Shack, and Netflix. He owns and operates his creative studio, Bayan Surf Club, in Santa Barbara, California.
Griffin Rick is a Santa Barbara resident and a senior at Laguna Blanca School. Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Griffin's interest in medicine led him to pursue a passion project in clinical research at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where he worked with industry professionals in clinical trials. Later, Griffin conducted research on diabetes alongside graduate students at Cornell University and was invited to attend the Washington University St. Louis Glomerular Disease symposium, where he met with nephrologists from around the world and gained a passionate perspective on the issues with modern medicine. Outside of school, Griffin is a passionate skier, golfer, and double bass player.
From his first job dressing up as a cartoon cat in an amusement park to his current position in education (via investment banking and restaurant ownership), Grant has clearly been on an unconventional career path. Yet there has been a running theme throughout this journey as he has consistently let curiosity, challenge, and joy drive his career choices and approach to less appealing work tasks. Given that we spend such a significant portion of our day engaged in work-related activities, he believes that our career choices should be closely linked with activities that bring us fulfillment beyond money. Not only does this result in more self-contentment during these work hours, he argues that the increased gratification results in a more engaged and productive workforce.
Leah Notarianni is a Transformational Speaker and Business Mentor who helps industry leaders transform their life and businesses from the inside out. She’s the Co-Founder and CEO of Legacy & Leverage, where they support industry leaders to master the science of transformation and leverage and scale their expertise through live events, group programs and certifications so they can have a greater impact in the world. Leah went from being a broke single mom to a seven-figure business owner and she uses her experience to support high achievers to heal from their story, make a massive impact, and get into alignment with the life they actually want to live. As a mother of three, she’s often found chasing sunsets with her daughters and spending time with her family.
James B. McClintock is the Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz (1978) and his doctoral degree from the University of South Florida (1984). In 1987, after completing a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California at Santa Cruz, he joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He became a Full Professor at UAB in 1997 and has also served as Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (1999-2003) and as Interim Dean of the Graduate School (2003-2005). Dr. McClintock’s research has been funded continuously over the past 33 years by the National Science Foundation and focuses on aspects of marine invertebrate nutrition, reproduction, and primarily, Antarctic marine chemical ecology. Over the past fifteen-years, his research has also encompassed studies of the impacts of rapid climate change and ocean acidification on Antarctic marine algae and invertebrates. He has published 300 peer-reviewed scientific publications, edited and written books, is invited to make numerous scientific and popular science presentations, and his research has been featured in a variety of public media outlets including the NPR Diane Rehm Show, NPR’s “On Point” with Tom Ashbrook, NPR Morning Edition with David Green, National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Discover Magazine, Scientific American Magazine, CNN, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and The Weather Channel. He recently returned from his 16th research expedition to Antarctica where over the past two decades he and his research collaborators have become among the world’s authorities on Antarctic marine chemical ecology and drug discovery and have developed an award winning interactive educational outreach web site His book Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land was released in September 2012 (paperback edition released in 2014 with a Foreward by Sylvia Earle) and has garnered considerable national and international praise. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an elected Trustee of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a board member of The Cahaba River Society and Alabama Forever Wild and is an elected Fellow of the Explorer's Club. On March 16, 2019, in the company of eight former Apollo Astronauts, the Explorer’s Club presented Dr. James McClintock with the Finn Ronne Memorial Award for Advances in Antarctic Science and Education. In October 1998, the United States Board on Geographic Names designated the geographic feature “McClintock Point” in honor of his contributions to Antarctic science.
The Elephant Project is a female-founded philanthropic toy company that has successfully helped save hundreds of elephants globally by donating proceeds from the hand-designed stuffed animals to aligned organizations that directly benefit the toys' real-world counterparts. Founded by Kristina McKean in 2017 after a lingering firsthand encounter with neglected baby elephants in Thailand, The Elephant Project launched its first cuddly product and accompanying education materials out of Santa Barbara, CA.
Kristina donates 100% of the net proceeds from any purchase to trusted organizations that help rescue and care for orphaned, abandoned, and abused elephants. Those organizations include The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand and The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.
The elephants were so successful that Kristina has recently expanded her SAVEUS brand to include big cats and dogs who are also suffering from abuse and neglect in the United States and abroad.
Since 2017, Kristina has been featured in People.com, The Kelly Clarkson Show, The Today Show, Vogue, Real Simple, Reader's Digest, The Los Angeles Times and other publications. To learn more about press and podcasts for The Elephant Project-visit : https://www.theelephantproject.com/press
The stuffed animals are an important gift that gives back and teaches children everywhere to be the voice for the voiceless and that one person can make a difference.
John Carney had an illustrious 23 year professional football career. While he is fondly remembered by teammates and
fans as one of the most prolific place-kickers in the history of the National Football League, he “kicked off” Carney
Ventures, LLC to make an impact of a different sort.
John is a mentor and coach for the rising generation of kickers and punters. His insight and passion have been
instrumental in opening doors for specialists to compete at the highest levels of high school, college and professional
John is a trainer for athletes becoming the best version of themselves. He opened Carney Training Facility in Carlsbad
for everyone from football players to everyday people wanting better health to be stronger, more flexible, more agile,
more fit...and more whole.
John is an inventor. His creative mind is always stimulated by questions such as “What if I could help golfers keep their
head down through the swing” or “What if football teams could have goal posts no matter where they practice”?
John is Catholic. He lives as he believes: God first, then family, then everything else. He not only shares his faith with his
wife Holly and children, Luke, JD and Keely, but with the local Church, with ministries that are important to him and the
various parishes he calls spiritual home. As a businessman, he treats everyone that he encounters by their God-given
Lorena Martinez is an actor, writer, speaker, and coach who is all in on the magic of Creative Joy. She launched her company, Bien Creative with a mission to raise joy, inspire courage, and ignite creativity.
A professional actor for over 10 years, Lorena has performed on Hollywood sets, Tony Award-winning stages, and legendary comedy houses. She has a BFA from NYU and an MFA from UCSD. She created and wrote a sitcom based on her immigration woes and recently signed a shopping deal with a major production company. Also the creator of PLAYDATE, a show where she interviews her favorite artists from Hollywood to Broadway; they play games, do crafts, and go deep on the journey of creating an improbable career.
Hobbies include but are not limited to painting, dancing, archery, horseback riding, wild walks, live theater, and all things witchy.
Sophia is a motivational speaker, workshop leader, bodyworker, athlete, coach, and a lifelong learner. She is passionate about studying how relationships form the foundation upon which individuals can thrive. Sophia’s work has grown from full time training as an elite athlete, to coaching and bodywork, and finally putting together the pieces to unearth the body and soul's deep reservoirs of strength during her team's record setting row from California to Hawaii. Sophia’s understanding of the body’s resilience, the relationships and needs that make us human, and the important role of communication drive her work with both teams and bodywork clients.
When she is not working, you can find Sophia hiking and running in the mountains, flying with birds, cooking delicious meals, or supporting friends and loved ones on their own trying endeavors.
Milton Alejandro Lopez Plascencia is a resident of Santa Barbara and a junior at Laguna Blanca School. Milton is particularly fond of Chemistry, Mathematics, and Spanish. He is currently a tutor for Spanish and is excited to share part of his culture with anyone he comes across. Milton joined a dance studio earlier this year, and quickly understood the basics, later being able to start more complicated footwork and partner work. Milton recently joined their training teams, and he will continue to practice throughout the year. Milton has really bonded with both his school community, and with his dance community, and hopes to continue making relationships within the Santa Barbara community. He also wishes to showcase what he has learned throughout his journey in dance in order to look for a way to approach life. When not found at school or at the studio, Milton can be regularly seen making crafts with his parents and reaching out to relatives in Mexico.
Leslie Zemeckis is a best-selling author, actress, and award-winning documentarian. Critically acclaimed films include Behind the Burly Q, the true story of old-time burlesque in America which ran on Showtime; the award-winning Bound by Flesh, Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer and Grandes Horizontales. She has acted in film and television opposite Steve Carell Tom Hanks, Richard Lawson, Colin Firth and Mickey Rourke. Zemeckis is the author of three best-sellers, Behind the Burly Q, the definitive oral history of burlesque, Goddess of Love Incarnate; the Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr and Feuding Fan Dancers (an SCIBA finalist for best bio of the year), about Sally Rand, Faith Bacon and the golden age of the showgirl. She writes a monthly book column in the Montecito Journal and has contributed to Huffington Post, Medium, Talkhouse, W Magazine and Stork Magazine. She is also the founder of the program “Stories Matter,” sponsored by Santa Barbara International Film Festival and ENTITY Magazine, with professional female authors mentoring the next generation of female storytellers. Zemeckis has spoken at panels and universities including Santa Barbara City College, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, The Chicago Club, Chicago History Museum, and MoMa. She was honored for her work inspiring women, in 2023 with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in part for “sharing and preserving stories of women who were once marginalized and stigmatized . . .” but due to her work “these women are now celebrated for their independence and personal agency.” The Medal is officially recognized by both Houses of Congress and is one of our nation’s most prestigious awards. Past recipients include Presidents Clinton and Reagan, Elie Wiesel, Sen. John McCain and HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Kimi Culp is a journalist, TV/Film producer and the host of All The Wiser Podcast. She is driven by endless curiosity and a knack for identifying and developing stories with
soul. Kimi has conducted thousands of interviews for outlets such as NBC, ABC and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is known for her genuine, easy-going style, and her ability to quickly establish trust and connection with people she has just met. As a producer, Kimi’s film GLEASON, a documentary about her close friends, Michel and Steve Gleason, following Steve's diagnosis of ALS at 32, premiered at Sundance and was shortlisted for the Academy Awards. The film sparked conversations around the world about caregiving, love, and loss. Kimi is the co-creator of the All The Wiser podcast, a show about hope and possibility on the other side of pain. It's a place for courageous conversations with heroes, outcasts, and
everyday people. Her favorite place to be is cozy at home in Los Angeles with her husband, Graham, her 3
kids and c-list actor-dog, Waffles. She believes everything is better with music, that Peanut M&Ms can turn your day around, and that most people are likable after sitting
with them and hearing their story.
"UCSB’s premier improvisational comedy troupe performs every Friday evening at 8 pm in the Embarcadero Hall in Isla Vista. Delighting audiences with themed shows, a dynamic cast, and the funniest skits anywhere, IMPROVABILITY is the way to get your weekend started! Voted “Best Late Night Entertainment” at UCSB!