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Bios

Cynthia Hass — Hass, a native of Modesto, Calif. is a junior studying international relations at Boston University. Enthusiastic about utilizing the power of media to help people live their best lives, her ultimate passion is empowering women. She has acted as both a Youth Champion for the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up campaign and as an international speaker talking to girls around the globe about the issues they face.

When not a studying, she acts as the COO at GimmeMo Productions, an online platform to inspire young people. In addition, she has worked for several media outlets including MTV Voices, The Boston Globe and Harvard Girl’s Impact the World. Cynthia is fervent about social impact and serves as a member of UNESCO's Youth Working Group, where she aspires to help young people realize their impact on the world.

Erik Martin — Martin is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, making his own major in new media and global civics. He currently works as a game design consultant with FHI 360 on creating games for positive social impact in developing nations. He has worked with the Federation of American Scientists and with the U.S. Department of Energy on games, along with contributing content for McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

He is also an education reform activist, working closely with other students on student-centered initiatives such as the Student Voice Live conference, the Edvengers Super PAC and previously the ScienceOnlineTeen unconference. He was appointed as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Maryland General Assembly. He has spoken at a number of events on the power of games and the need for holistic education reform, including ScienceOnline, the AdvancED Global Summit and Technology, Entertainment, Design (TEDx) Redmond. He is slowly but surely working through writing a largely irrelevant fantasy novel.

Eva Shang —
Shang is a 17-year-old freshman at Harvard University and editor-at-large at the Huffington Post. Originally from Philadelphia, she is passionate about education, disability and human rights. She writes for GenYNot, for the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson and for USA Today College; her work has also been featured in the Boston Globe, Thought Catalog, xoJane and the Huffington Post.

She has served on local and national advisory boards including the United Nations Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Do Something and Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. She and her sister Melissa created a viral petition for American Girl to release a disabled doll that garnered international mass media coverage. She is on Twitter at @evawrites.

Jack Andraka — Andraka is a Maryland high school student who conducted research at Johns Hopkins University and at age 15 created a novel paper sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer in five minutes for as little as 3 cents. He is the winner of the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award and of the Gordon E. Moore award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. He was First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest at the State of the Union Address and was named a Champion of Change by President Obama for his work to break down scientific journal paywalls.

He has spoken at TED Long Beach and at more than 16 TEDx events, including at the House of Parliament, and is the youngest speaker at the Royal Society of Medicine. He has been featured on 60 Minutes, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, NPR Marketplace, Popular Science, BBC, Al Jazeera and the Colbert Report, as well as in award-winning documentaries including “You Don’t Know Jack” by Morgan Spurlock. Jack is currently working on the Nokia Biosensing X Prize and speaks about open access, STEM education and universal Internet availability.

He is also on the national junior wildwater kayaking team and has won awards at multiple national and international math competitions.

Jose (Joey) Vega — Vega is a student at Connally High School in Pflugerville, Texas, where he has spent four years working with teacher David Conover on a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) video-game design project.

Vega has led many projects with F1, Columbia, Texas Parks and Wildlife and more. An alumni of the C5 Youth Foundation of Texas, he helps young people learn to show leadership in their communities and guides them to the path of college and higher learning through a five-year summer program. He also took part in the film “The True Beef” with the John B. Connally advanced culinary arts class, helping educate people about the beef industry from pasture to plate through food labs, field trips and expert interviews.    

Jordan Howard — Howard is a 22-year-old thought leader at the intersection of sustainability, environmental education and youth empowerment. As one of the youngest sustainability educators and green school champions, Jordan understands education is empowerment and has made it her mission to provide youth with the inspiration and tools to create the change they want to see in their schools, communities and cities. Her journey began at the Environmental Charter High School in Los Angeles, Calif. while taking a mandatory environmental service learning class — she was an environmental skeptic until she later realized that she was skeptical because she was not educated on solutions to environmental issues.

After becoming enlightened with sustainable solutions, she immediately began transforming her home, high school and peers across the globe. She has partnered with various organizations across the nation with a focus to educate youth on issues such as plastic pollution, environmental literacy, health and wellness, climate change and environmental justice — the Surfrider Foundation, 5 Gyres, Alliance for Climate Education and The Children’s Nature Institute. She has received awards from the U.S. Green Building Council, National Wildlife Federation, The Tavis Smiley Foundation and many more.

Her work has been featured in The New York Times, National Scholastics, ABC, NBC, FOX, GOOD and the book Girls Gone Green. She has spoken before thousands, keynoting conferences, speaking on panels and leading workshops for youth and educators. From opening for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at fundraisers for President Obama to developing youth programs to educate preteens in middle school in India, her journey to spark change among millennials around the world is only beginning.

Parker Liautaud — Liautaud is a 20-year-old polar explorer and climate change campaigner who has undertaken three expeditions to the North Pole and one to the South Pole. In 2013, he completed the fastest human-powered trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. He is the youngest man to walk to the South Pole without external assistance. Through his expeditions, he has partnered with leading academic institutions, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and GNS New Zealand to conduct research on the climate system. He has also worked with the United Nations Foundation and the Yale Climate and Energy Institute on the communication of climate science.

His most recent expedition, the Willis Resilience Expedition, featured a 16-episode live show dedicated to climate change, which hosted 25 debates and discussions on the issue with leading experts from the scientific community, the private sector, government, and nongovernmental organizations. Harnessing the latest advanced technologies, the expedition transmitted live video daily from Antarctica.

He has been featured in more than 200 media outlets around the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic and The Guardian. In December 2013, he was named to Time Magazine's 30 Under 30 list of people changing the world.

He is a Member International of The Explorers Club and serves on the organization’s United Nations Committee, as well as on the advisory board for the USA Science and Engineering Festival. An ambassador for One Young World, he studies geology and geophysics at Yale University.

Ritankar Das — At age 18, Das was the youngest University Medalist at U.C. Berkeley in at least a century, earning the top graduating senior honor from among more than 6000 graduates. At 19, he is now a Whitaker fellow and a student at Oxford University, working on an MSc in biomedical engineering.

At Berkeley, Das served as an academic senator, participated in the management of a $1.7 billion budget, founded the Berkeley Chemical Review research journal, designed a chemistry DeCal course and taught graduate students. A published alternative energy researcher, he has received several awards from major scientific societies in multiple disciplines — the American Chemical Society (chemistry), the American Physical Society (physics) and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (biology) — as well as being selected as a graduate fellow by the National Science Foundation. He has reviewed entries for the Presidential Green Chemistry Award at the EPA.

The founder of the education nonprofit organization See Your Future, he is currently authoring a book on education reform with contributions from Fortune 50 CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, U.S. cabinet secretaries and university presidents.

Noted by the Smithsonian as a “future Nobel laureate,” he has won more than 50 awards at a total of more than $500,000, including the prestigious Goldwater, Udall, Gates, DAAD and Pearson awards, as well as a Congressional Certificate of Recognition. He joins Aaron Rodgers, Gregory Peck and Steve Wozniak as a Berkeley Wall of Fame inductee.

Das has served on advisory boards to State Farm, the City of New Berlin, DoSomething.org, and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. He has served on the IJSA journal editorial board and has appeared in more than 100 media outlets around the world, including the San Francisco Chronicle, ABC, the Times of India and an upcoming National Geographic documentary. He is also a published poet who is fluent in four languages.

Ryan Orbuch — A senior at Boulder High School in Boulder, Colo., Orbuch is the founder of Basil Ltd. as well as co-creator and lead designer of the best-selling iPhone® application Finish. This task-management application — which received a 2013 Apple Design Award for high standards in design, technology and innovation — is known as “the to-do list for procrastinators" and has been covered in media outlets such as TechCrunch, Forbes, CNET and The Huffington Post.

Orbuch was the first high school student hired at the start-up accelerator Techstars Boulder, which provides selected ventures with seed funding and intensive mentorship from accomplished entrepreneurs. Additionally, he has been featured on Bloomberg TV and Fox News as an expert on teens and technology.

Deeply passionate about education reform, he is particularly interested in designing technology and leveraging network effects to help human behavior reach new levels. Building on the lessons learned from Finish about motivation via software mechanics, he is actively investigating new ways to harness and enhance student inspiration and motivation.

Shilpa Yarlagadda — Yarlagadda is a senior at Gunn High School in Palo Alto, Calif. and is founder of Club Academia, a nonprofit ed-tech company for which she which won the $20,000 Westly Prize for Young Innovators. Club Academia is built on the platform "of the student, by the students and for the students" as it strives to provide a world-class education for all students through its concise video-tutorials.

Yarlagadda has presented at the Florida Ed-Tech Conference, TEDx events, Building Learning Communities and also at the Computer User Educator's conference. She enjoys running and creative writing and is passionate about amplifying the student voice in education-technology.

Sixto Cancel — Cancel is a Virginia Commonwealth University student who grew up in the U.S. foster care system and founded of Think of Us, which works to create positive life outcomes for vulnerable youth. He was named a Millennial Maker by Black Entertainment Television and was recognized as one of the Top 24 Changemakers Under 24 in the country by the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and Sparkaction. In high school, he founded and secured funding for Stellar Works, an SAT and remedial education program for students in foster care. As a Young fellow at Jim Casey Youth Opportunity, he has had a national voice advocating for youth aging out of foster care.

He has participated in more than 30 conferences regarding issues facing youth, including the Harvard Law, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Center for Enterprise Development. He has been quoted on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” Fox News and the Huffington Post. As a policy council member, he provides recommendations to the acting assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He also currently serves on the board of directors for the National Foster Care Coalition, The North American Council on Adoptable Children and on advisory boards for organizations including the Center for the Study of Social Policy and American Institute of Research.

Theresa Soares
— Soares entered her professional career as one of the youngest women ever to be hired by the U.S. Department of Defense at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., where she worked in computer and information sciences. Now 19, she is an undergraduate studying business economics, computer science and sociology at Mills College, where she was nominated by her peers and faculty to serve as a student-at-large committee member for the board of trustees. In addition to her studies, she is extremely active in leadership positions across the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

As the executive assistant and mentee to lifetime investor and education philanthropist Melvin J. Kaplan, she has helped catalyze projects in blended learning and early childhood education, as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She is personally committed to increasing the numbers of women and minorities in STEM careers.

She is a newly appointed board member of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Silicon Valley Chapter, an international association for technology and communications professionals in international government, industry and academia. She also serves as director of innovation for Student Voice, a recently incorporated nonprofit education startup with a vision to create a future in which all students have an influential voice in the decisions that impact their lives.