Dr. Connie Yowell, CEO, LRNG by Collective Shift

Connie is the visionary and CEO of LRNG. She brings considerable experience from the MacArthur Foundation, where as Director of Education she oversaw a $200 million effort over 10 years to support research and design experiments in Digital Media & Learning. Prior to joining the Foundation, Connie was an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, publishing scholarly work that examined the complex interplay among young people’s emerging identity, their social context and achievement. Connie briefly served as Policy Analyst in the U.S. Department of Education during the Clinton Administration and has worked closely with teachers and administrators to develop programs for youth development.

Connie earned her bachelor’s degree from Yale, and her PhD from Stanford University.


Will Wegert, President, Cold Collar

Will is the Founder of a fast growing Career Services firm.  Will's expertise is in resume writing, interview coaching, recruiting, headhunting and other job search services.  He's passionate about helping leaders with untapped potential connect with emerging, high-impact companies. 

Will graduated from Hillsdale College in Michigan with a degree in marketing management. Right out of college, Will landed 5 different jobs in an short 8-month span. Realizing that he had a knack for vetting the skills gained by past experiences and applying those skills to future employers, he started a company to help others do the same.  

As a job search coach and an expert on employer attraction, Will helps his clients "flex their fun voice" ... and "utilize the power of their personal story" -- Will says that one of the key elements in "Bridging the Gap" between you and your dream role is to show off the real, the authentic, even the slightly unprofessional you.


Dr. Thomas Tucker, Superintendent, Princeton City Schools

When Thomas Tucker was a senior in college, his grandfather handed him a vial filled with cotton and cotton seeds.  “Don’t forget where you came from,” the older man told him. “And don’t forget the struggle.”  Tucker, AASA's 2016 National Superintendent of the Year, hasn’t forgotten. He remains rooted in Southern history and the lessons his maternal grandparents, Fred and Magnolia Campbell, instilled in him as he was growing up in Arkansas. 

Thomas has a rich history from which to draw. His great-grandparents were born into slavery, and his grandparents were sharecroppers on a former slave plantation in Cotton Plant, Ark. Tucker’s parents grew cotton and raised livestock on their own 40 acres nearby, and as the youngest of 11 children, he pitched in.  Tucker attended an all-black elementary school. He went on to Philander Smith College, a historically black college in Little Rock, where he finished first in his class.  He has served 27 years in the Kansas and Ohio public school systems, holding positions of classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, director of secondary curriculum and superintendent.

Matt Miller.jpg

Matthew Miller, Superintendent, Mentor Public Schools

Matt is the superintendent of Mentor Public Schools. He has spent the last 22 years serving Ohio communities as an educator in the roles of superintendent (11), director of student services and instruction (1), principal (5), and teacher (5). Matt is actively involved in the prestigious and nationwide League of Innovative Schools through Digital Promise, also serving as an elected member of their advisory committee. He was selected as one of 100 superintendents nationwide to attend and present at the #FutureReady National ConnectED Superintendents Summit at the White House in 2015, was named to the National School Boards Association Top 20 to Watch in the Nation, and conducted his first TEDx Talk entitled: Don't Buy the Book: Cultivate, Curate and Go Open in 2016. Matt Miller is transforming Mentor through the use of open educational resources and balanced learning, along with emphasizing student and teacher voice through innovation. He completed his undergraduate coursework and master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati and was selected for the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Leadership Institute for Superintendents. Matt is grateful for his supportive family - his wife, Kristy, and their two children. Mason is a junior at the University of Cincinnati and Jessica is a senior at Mentor High School.


Cindy Meyers Foley, Executive Assistant Director and Director of Learning and Experience, Columbus Museum of Art

When Cindy Meyers Foley discusses creativity in schools, she doesn’t want to hear “don’t kill the arts.” She instead wants to hear “don’t kill the ideas.” Provoking change in arts education may be her job, but it’s also her passion.

Cindy is the Executive Assistant Director and Director of Learning and Experience at the Columbus Museum of Art. Foley worked to reimagine the CMA as a 21st century institution that is transformative, active, and participatory. An institution that impacts the health and growth of the community by cultivating, celebrating and championing creativity. Foley envisioned and led the charge to open the 18,000 sq. ft. Center for Creativity in 2011. In 2013, the museum received the National Medal for Museums in recognition of this work.

Foley is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the Museum, she was with the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art, the Portland Museum of Art, and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Al Summers.jpg

Al Summers, National Faculty, Buck Institute of Education

Al has been an educator for 45 years: 28 as a middle school science teacher, three as VP of Outreach and Professional Development for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, eight as Director of Professional Development for National Middle School Association, three years as a PBL coach, and three years as a consultant.

Al received the Governor’s Award for Youth Science Opportunities seven times and the Governor’s Educational Leadership Award twice.  In 1998, he was one of four finalists for Ohio Teacher of the Year and also became one of only three teachers nationwide to earn two National Board Certifications.

Al believes that connecting with the teachers and principals is as important as teachers connecting with students. He says, “I strive to build those connections from the opening moment to the end of our work together. The other extremely important aspect of our work is modeling – modeling the way teachers should facilitate a project and turn the learning over to the students. When you see teachers do this, the results are powerful.”


Darius Watkins, Student and Musician

As the music culture continues to give rise to new talent, few up-and-comers have the lyrical capabilities and delivery that Darius Walker, AKA Dwat, possesses.  A Springfield native, he began writing lyrics after being influenced by his brother.  By the time he was 13, Darius had a stack of notebooks with his compositions and would record them using his laptop and iPad.  When YOUmedia Springfield opening in 2015, Darius brought his work out of the notebooks and into the audio studio, working with mentors to learn every aspect of music production.  Since then, Darius has recorded hundreds of songs and has an active following on Soundcloud and YouTube.

Darius is best known for the way in which his music inspires those around him to give back to the community.  His most popular song, “Trap Mansion,” is based on his desire to give back to the Champion City and mobilize it into a very positive force.  This passion is evident when Darius says, “It’s important to come back and give everyone in Springfield what they want...make it a fun place...everything people desire it to be.”

A senior at Springfield High School, Darius lettered in varsity track, enjoys photography and graphic design, and constantly reminds himself to “stay up.”  He spends a lot of time in the recording booths at Springfield High and YOUmedia, as well as his own in-home studio.  He plans to attend community college in the fall and then transfer to a university to study music production.  According to his friends, Darius is also famous for his “original french fries.”    


Ryan Ramirez.jpg

Ryan Ramirez, Student and Artist

Ryan Ramirez’s first exhibition, A Collection of Prayers, cemented his place in the world of accomplished student artists.  Held at the Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome in April 2016, A Collection of Prayers drew the attention of artists from all over the state, including a group of artists from the Ohio Department of Education who told Ryan it was the finest series they had seen in their entire careers.  Since then, he has given ten artist talks and lectures all over the region.  Ryan received The Governor’s Award of Excellence in 2016 and placed in the top twenty-five of 11,500 entries.

Rooted in the belief that he owes the viewer work that relates to something potent, Ryan’s inspiration comes from deep places in his heart.  “For me, those deep places are the investigation of who we are as individuals and how we fit together as a society. Exploring these questions is the theme of my work.”  Through this exploration, Ryan’s art shows that although we live in an individualistic society, we share similar experiences and have similar struggles.  Ryan is adamant that his work engages people in different ways, particularly through viewer participation.  His work is not solely visual – viewers are frequently part of the piece as well.  Whether people manipulate his body in a performance and watch the consequences unfold, or shuffle their feet through a sea of shredded paper in an installation, their involvement creates a whole separate layer of conceptual potential.   

A senior at Springfield High School, Ryan has is a member of the Student Leadership Team and recently played Prince Charming in the musical, Cinderella.  Ryan has been awarded a scholarship to the internationally esteemed School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he will start in the fall.