Immerse yourself in incredible talks and performances.

The 2015 Presenters

Kathryn Batey
Kathryn “Katey” Batey grew up in the The Woodlands, TX, with her older brother Kevin and her parents Pat and Betsy Batey. As a young child, Kathryn knew she had a passion for teaching. Growing up, Kathryn was dedicated to her school and club soccer teams as well as volunteering with National Charity League. Kathryn attended the University of Arkansas where she became a member of the Kappa Delta Sorority and studied early childhood education. She received her B.S.E. in 2010 and graduated with her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education in 2011. Since beginning college in 2005, her summers have been dedicated to counseling kids ages 7-18 at a summer camp in Branson, Missouri called Kanakuk Kamps. Kathryn loves to spend her time traveling, going to sporting events, running in races, and spending time with friends and family. Kathryn is now in her second year of teaching and teaches 4th grade writing and science at SS Conner Elementary in Dallas ISD.

Thom Browne
Thom Browne is an artist, educator, and writer based in Dallas, TX. Currently an 8th grade reading teacher at Raul Quintanilla Middle School, he facilitates Open Mic Quintanilla, a group that helps students find their voice through spoken word poetry. Browne's own poetry explores student struggles that take place inside and outside the classroom. A graduate of the University of Kansas, where he studied Theatre for Youth, Thom uses the power of story to put a face on problems that data often can't represent. He is a passionate advocate for the arts and a firm believer in using them as educational forces. When not working, Thom enjoys cooking and planning his next adventure.

Jaime Casap
Jaime Casap is the Global Education Evangelist at Google, Inc. Jaime evangelizes the power and potential of the web, technology, and Google tools as enabling and supporting capabilities in pursuit of creating powerful learning models. Jaime works with educational organizations around the world, helping them find ways to continuously improve the quality of education by utilizing and enabling technology capabilities.

Born and raised as a first generation American to a single mother on welfare in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, Jaime understands and appreciates the power education has on changing the destiny of a family in just one generation.

You can reach and follow Jaime on Google+ at +Jaime Casap and Twitter @jcasap.

Rafranz Davis
Rafranz Davis is an instructional technology specialist for a Dallas/Fort Worth area school district. As an advocate for passion-based learning, Rafranz uses her experience as a secondary math educator to help teachers integrate technology using innovative teaching strategies aimed at empowering students to be autonomous learners. As a writer and speaker, Davis frequently draws upon her background as a parent and woman of color to offer ideas and insight into how technology can be used in schools to not only break barriers but to provide opportunities and instruments for diverse learners’ voices. Her first book, The Missing Voices in Edtech: Bringing Diversity into Edtech (Corwin Press, January 2015), challenges schools to not only face inherent challenges of lack of diversity in decision-making but also take steps aimed at changing it.

Chris Emdin
Christopher Emdin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University; where he also serves as Director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education. He is currently a Caperton Fellow and Hip-Hop Archive Fellow at the WEB DuBois Institute at Harvard University.

Dr. Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual and science advocate whose commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality and education have appeared in dozens of influential periodicals including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

Dr. Emdin holds a Ph.D in Urban Education with a concentration in mathematics, science, and technology; master’s degrees in both natural sciences and education administration, and bachelor’s degrees in physical anthropology, biology, and chemistry.

He is the co creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement, and a much sought-after public speaker on a number of topics that include hip-hop education, STEM education, politics, race, class, diversity, and youth empowerment. He is also an advisor to numerous international organizations, school districts, and schools where he delivers speeches, and holds workshops and professional development sessions for students, teachers, policy makers, and other education stakeholders within the public and private sector.

Michelle Gibson
Choreographer, Educator, and Performing Artist Michelle Gibson received her BFA in Dance from Tulane University and her MFA in Dance and Performance Studies from Hollins University/American Dance Festival at Duke University. Michelle, Second Lining from New Orleans, LA, has been blessed to have studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Delta Festival Ballet Company, Milton School of Dance, the Young African American Dance Ensemble, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, the American Dance Festival and Jacob's Pillow. In addition to her diverse training, Michelle has had the wonderful opportunity of performing works choreographed by Baba Chuck Davis, Baba Richard Gonzales, Donald McKayle, Sean Curran, Ronald K. Brown, Trebien Pollard, LaMora Perez Prades, Marlies Yearby,Tommy F. DeFrantz, Thaddeus and Tanya Davis, Vernel Bagneris and Scott Grossman just to name a few.

Currently Michelle is an artist in resident with the South Dallas Cultural Center, Artistic Director of the Dallas Youth Repertory Project, and Adjunct Professor at Brookhaven College in Dallas, TX. Her choreographic works range from genres of the African Diaspora, Contemporary Modern, Afro Funk, Jazz, and her own New Orleans Second Line Aesthetic. Blessed to have had accomplished many things in her life, Michelle’s greatest achievement is being the mother / artist of two beautiful children ages 15 and 9. 

Chris Lehmann
Chris is the founding principal of the Science Leadership Academy, a progressive science and technology high school in Philadelphia, PA. SLA is considered to be one of the pioneers of the School 2.0 movement. The school is the Dell Center of Excellence for Technology in Education. From 2009-2012, the school was been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School and was named one of the Ten Most Amazing Schools in the US by Ladies Home Journal. In 2013, Chris co-founded the non-profit, Inquiry Schools, to help more schools create more empowering, modern   learning experiences for students, and he serves as Superintendent and Chair of the Board. 

Chris is the 2014 winner of the McGraw Prize in Education. In June 2013, Chris was named Outstanding Leader of the Year by the International Society of Technology in Education, and In November of 2012, Chris was named one of Dell’s #Inspire100 – one of the 100 people changing the world using Social Media.  He has written for many education publications and has spoken at conferences all over the world, including TEDxPhilly, TEDxNYED, and the International Society of Technology in Education Conference and has worked with schools all over the country. Chris is co-editor of What School Leaders Need to Know about Digital Technologies and Social Media, author of the education blog Practical Theory: and father to Jakob and Theo.

Quin Patton
Quin Patton is a Dallas based food scientist and currently works as a product developer for PepsiCo, Frito-Lay. He has led many household staples to market, with some of his most recent projects including work on the Ruffles, Tostitos, and Chester’s brands. Quin is a passionate advocate for STEAM education models and has partnered in several Dallas education initiatives. In 2008 he started Mission Vision, a nonprofit dedicated to distributing reading glasses to impoverished communities in Central and South America. Quin received a MS in Food Science from North Carolina State University and a BA in English from Davidson College. When not working on the next big tasty snack, you can find Quin out running, cycling, or climbing tall objects.

Vanessa Ramirez
Vanessa Ramirez currently serves as the Interim Director of the Houston Scholar Program. In this role, she provides an extra layer of support to highly motivated students from KIPP and YES schools from 8th grade through 12th grade to help them make the transition through high school and college. She is also the Founder of Eight Million Stories, a nonprofit organization committed to providing communities of vulnerable youth with an effective alternative to incarceration. Her mission is to facilitate a transformative educational experience that will inspire our vulnerable students to become life-long learners and empower them to break free of a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty, hopelessness and crime. Vanessa‘s passion for KIPP and education reform started in 1994 when she became a member of KIPP’s founding class. She graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, in 2006 with a BA in Economics for Business and Management. 

Dalton Sherman
Dalton Ridge Sherman is a 16-year-old 11th grade student at the Barak Obama Male Leadership Academy in the Dallas Independent School District. Dalton is on the principle’s “A” Honor Roll and aspires to someday be an attorney.

Dalton is very determined and competitive. He enjoys participating in sports; he has competed in AAU basketball and is currently a purple belt in karate. He is an active member of the Youth Ministry at Concord Missionary Baptist Church and serves faithfully in the youth choir. He is also a member of the Future Leaders Program: a program designed to identify and develop young leaders in the South and West Dallas communities.

On January 16, 2008, Dalton was selected as the first place winner among eight finalists in the 16th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratory Competition. Following the competition, he received an invitation to perform at the Morton Myerson Symphony Center for the Voices of Peace Celebration honoring Dr. Maya Angelou, and was the keynote speaker at the Dallas ISD Teacher Convocation held in the American Airlines Center. Dalton spoke to over 17,000 teachers and district employees about the importance of educators believing in their students.  As a result of his inspiring presentation, Dalton has been featured in the Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Examiner, The Dallas Weekly, The Urban Educator, and The Epitome and JET magazines.  On the heels of the video of his talk, Dalton was invited to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Oprah’s Talented & Gifted Kids Show, and the Today Show on NBC. He was also featured on The Dallas School Zone, an Emmy award-winning program produced by DISD and its students.

In 2009, Dalton was recognized on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives for his outstanding achievement as a talented young orator by Texas State Representative Yvonne Davis.

Viliami Tuivai
Viliami Tuivai (“Coach V”) is quickly developing a reputation as one of the most exciting and practical motivational speakers in the country. His energy, clarity, and passion for success and life itself are helping audiences realize they can be Champions in all of their life endeavors. He has inspired companies, nonprofits, schools, law enforcement groups, collegiate teams, and organizations of every level to believe and achieve their goals through his “Life Champion” presentations. Captain Toney Vincelli of 124th Fighter Wing says this about Coach V: “Viliami Tuivai brings a rare blend of humor, inspiration and application combined with super-power credibility on what it takes to be a winner. Anyone who applies his teaching will be forever changed, and anyone who absorbs his principles will be forever inspired.” Coach V is also the Founder and President of a youth-focused community nonprofit that trains and teaches life lessons through sports to at-risk youth in Sacramento, CA. Coach V applies his life, educational, and NCAA experiences to mentor and train youth to be Champions. His NCAA track record includes 125 wins and seven conference championships, four bowl game championships, including two BCS Fiesta Bowl championships He and his wife Martha have two children and reside in Elk Grove, CA. Coach V’s most resounding quote is, “Life is struggle, struggle is life; misery, is optional.”

Abby Williams
Abby has been dedicated to the non-profit community for the last fourteen years, both as a professional and volunteer.  Abby served as Vice President and Director of Charitable Services for Goldman, Sachs & Co. where she was responsible for the development and implementation of the firm’s annual giving efforts totaling $25 million worldwide.  After leaving the firm in 2000, she worked as a community development consultant to bridge her for-profit experience with the needs in the non-profit sector.  

Among her community activities, Abby and her husband helped found the Uplift Williams Preparatory School, a K-12 free tuition public charter school operated by Uplift Education that educates 1,200 primarily low-income children in northwest Dallas.  Abby remains actively involved with the school by serving on the Uplift West Dallas Advisory Council. Abby also serves as co-chair of the Dallas Fort Worth Region Teach For America Advisory Council.  Last year, she participated in the Fellows Program of Leadership ISD, and was recently invited to join their Board of Directors.  Abby also serves on the Board of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  She also facilitates a network of 18 public schools and 10 area private schools to promote effective partnerships targeting literacy intervention efforts, coined “P3 Network” under the Commit! Partnership.  Additionally, Abby serves on the Advisory Council for the Austin College GO! Forum, which honors international servant leaders and brings these same leaders to the Dallas area as part of a public lecture series.  Her past board leadership experience includes serving as President to the North Dallas High School Community Board as well as a board member of Dallas CASA and a volunteer supporting the Foundation for the Education of Young Women.  She also served as an Executive Committee member and Trustee of the Dallas Women’s Foundation (“DWF”) as well as Chair of the DWF’s 25th Anniversary Celebration Chair raising over $1.25 million for the local community. She has also been a member of the Junior League of Dallas, Dallas Social Venture Partners and The Real Estate Council of Dallas. 

Abby graduated Summa Cum Laude from Southern Methodist University, earning a BBA in Finance and BS in Economics.  After graduation, Abby accepted a position with Goldman, Sachs & Co. working within the investment and merchant banking divisions for six years before moving into the corporate community involvement area of the firm.

Abby lives in Dallas with her husband Todd and their five sons. 


DaVerse Lounge
Will Richey and Alejandro Perez, Jr. (AP) engage audiences of all ages with their infectious, kinesthetic, call and response approach to the Art of Spoken Word as expressed through original stories, poetry and song. Their mastery of the Melody Memory Method – a low risk / high success, "See it. Say it. Do it." interactive – invites the crowd to become an instrument themselves through various rhythms and vocalized mantras. Their dynamic connection is often enhanced by nationally renown, live interpretive painter and scribe, David Rodriguez of Dr Gorilla Studio. The three of them not only share in their Puerto Rican heritage, but also in their desire to cross cultures, creeds and races by awakening the creative soul. They are the founders of DaVerse Lounge, were featured on the TEDxSMU 2013 stage, and have been nominated for a Dallas MasterMind Award for Innovation of Art and Culture in North Texas. Will and Alejandro are highly sought after multi-disciplinary arts educators and David has painted live for TD Jakes, Oprah Winfrey and numerous corporate clients across the U.S.

Maya Jones
With a full sound and a compelling stage presence, Maya A. Jones, soprano, has enjoyed performing roles such as Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as well as Katisha from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. In opera scenes at SMU, Maya brought flair and fun to her characters Mercedes in Bizet’s Carmen and Maria from Sondheim’s West Side Story. She has achieved standings in the National Association of Teachers of Singing competitions as well as the Classical Singer Competition in Chicago. She also earned many honors from competitions at the state, national and international level during her high school tenure at the Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts. Maya enjoys traveling and has made musical memories singing in Greece, South Africa and this summer made many more performing in the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in Italy. In South Africa, Maya co-performed with the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal’s OCSA Opera Studio and Choral Academy, in the musical South Pacific. In Italy, Maya was excited to sing with students and mentors from around the world in scenes as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and in the role of La Badessa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica. Most recently was chosen as guest soloist for SMU’s Triumph of the Spirit Awards, hosted by the Embrey Human Rights Program. 


Britton Banowsky
Commissioner, Conference USA

Britton Banowsky is in his 12th year as Commissioner of Conference USA, a league focused on excellence in athletics, academics and the community with his progressive leadership. Despite change, Conference USA has maintained a solid foundation and a strong identity and reinforced its position in collegiate athletics as it celebrates its 20th year of competition.

With a wealth of experience in intercollegiate athletics, Banowsky became the new Commissioner of Conference USA on October 28, 2002. He is only the second Commissioner in C-USA replacing Mike Slive, who held the reins since the Conference's inception in 1995.

Banowsky has served on several national committees and was the most recent Chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. In 2012, he founded the Heart of Dallas, a non-profit organization that exists to inspire Dallas millennials to become the next generation of influencers and philanthropists by leveraging a consistent calendar of sports and entertainment events that kicked off with the 2013 Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Banowsky has spent most of his professional career in the state of Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he earned both a business and a law degree. Banowsky and his wife, Cindy, have three children: Kendall, Brit and Wade and one granddaughter.

Charles Best
Founder & CEO,

Charles Best leads, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity. At, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Charles launched the organization in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. is one of Oprah Winfrey's "ultimate favorite things" and was featured on the cover of Fast Company as one of the "50 Most Innovative Companies in the World." For three years, Fortune Magazine has named Charles to its "40 under 40 hottest rising stars in business.”