2015 Speakers and Performers
AlejAndro Anastasio is a professional international inspirational and motivational speaker addressing the keys to overcoming obstacles, positive thinking, and living a life of unlimited power.
Born without his left hand, AlejAndro chooses to perceive all challenges as an opportunity for personal growth by turning adversity into unlimited power. By changing “disabled thinking” he has transformed his life for the better and helped others to do the same. His positive attitude through the years has propelled him to deliver a message of hope and inspiration to all who hear him speak and to all who meet him.
Despite his irreversible disability, AlejAndro has devoted his life to teaching, challenging and inspiring people to live a life of greatness in spite of any limitations. A self proclaimed “Champion of Life,” he believes nothing is impossible if you truly have faith and positive thinking in yourself and others.
Diane Raptosh’s fourth book of poetry, American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press) was Longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award. The recipient of three fellowships in literature from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, she served as the first-ever Boise Poet Laureate (2013) and serves currently as the Idaho Writer-in-Residence (2013-2016). She holds the Eyck-Berringer Endowed Chair in English at The College of Idaho, where she teaches literature and creative writing as well as directs the program in Criminal Justice/Prison Studies. A highly active ambassador for poetry, she has given poetry writing workshops in locations ranging from school buses and riverbanks to maximum security prisons. She lives with her family in Boise. Her website: www.dianeraptosh.com
Dr. Hampikian is a professor of Biology and Criminal Justice at Boise State University. A Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, his research includes identifying the smallest DNA sequences absent from nature that he calls Nullomers. Using these sequences Dr. Hampikian has invented a method of tagging DNA samples to prevent contamination of forensic evidence, and 198 drugs that are effective against cancer cells. In 2013 he was awarded the Liberty Bell Award for his work in justice, and in 2014 the Idaho Innocence Project under his leadership freed Sarah Pearce after 12 years in Idaho prisons. He is a renowned forensic DNA expert and has worked on high profile cases around the world including that of Amanda Knox. He has helped with more than a dozen exonerations, and worked on hundreds of cases, recently helping the French police use Familiar DNA to solve a decade old murder.
Justin Skeesuck is The Disabled Traveler. He encourages and instructs people with disabilities on how to successfully navigate and overcome the many challenges they face in their lives when traveling. A former graphic designer, Justin is now a motivational
speaker, coach, and accessibility consultant. His authentic, powerful, and unique storytelling gives insight on what it’s like to live and travel with a progressive neuromuscular disease. Justin provides insight and applicable training on 20+ years of accessible travel experience. He has been featured and interviewed on NBC, ABC, Fox & Friends, Huffington Post, People.com, and The Meredith Vieira Show.
Most recently, Justin was the first person in history to complete the Camino de Santiago in a wheelchair; a 500 mile epic pilgrimage across northern Spain with his best friend, Patrick Gray, pushing him. Justin believes life is not defined by your limitations but it's what you actually do in life that defines you.
As a former high school teacher, a former registered nurse, and a health care administrator at a local hospital, Patrick Gray is a lover of people. He believes that who we are on a day to day basis is the greatest testament to what we believe. His life as a husband and father of three children provides him with daily joy, and his recent adventure across Spain with best friend Justin Skeesuck, has opened his eyes to a whole new world of people hungry for hope and inspiration. This story known as “I’ll Push You” has opened many doors for both Patrick and Justin to share their thoughts on faith, friendship, and love. Patrick’s new found passion is public speaking, inspiring others to live their lives more fully regardless of the limitations they might face.
Karen Day is a journalist prone to dangerous enthusiasms. As a journalist, photographer and filmmaker, she makes a habit of ignoring the punitive warnings of military dictators, religious extremists, political pedagogues and her four children. Consequently, her career experience includes house arrest in Myanmar, lunch with Dr. Anthrax in pre-war Baghdad, fashion reprimands from an Afghan warlord in Kandahar and happy hour with the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere in Manhattan. Her independent pen and camera focus on the human element in every story, whether the subject is worn-torn refugees or Hollywood celebrities. Day has reported from Cuba, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq and 11 countries in Africa for numerous publications, including MARIE CLAIRE, O Magazine, MOTHER JONES and THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. She has written on DOIN policy for the Pentagon, is the co-author of SEAL: THE UNSPOKEN SCARIFICE on the Navy Seals and has authored four children’s books on Idaho in partnership with First Lady, Lori Otter. Her independently produced reports from Iraq, Afghanistan and South Sudan have aired on NBC NIGHTLY NEWS, CNN and BBC. Day is the co-producer of the award-winning Plum TV series, WOMEN WITH A CAUSE, and has directed and produced 11 documentary films. FROM THE GROUND UP was featured at the 2013 SUN VALLEY FILM FESTIVAL and her current project, GIRL FROM GOD’S COUNTRY, premiers internationally in 2015. She is the accidental founder of AFGHAN WOMEN JUSTICE PROJECT which provides literacy teachers and school supplies for thousands of women and children incarcerated for moral crimes in prisons throughout Afghanistan.
Day lives on an Idaho farm with her eight-year-old son, 21 unproductive chickens, two aggressive turkeys, two moody mares, three barn cats and one house dog. Presenting a TEDx talk has been on her eternal bucket list.
Kate Simonds is a senior at Timberline High School and is thrilled to be speaking at TEDxBoise. She devotes most of her time to One Stone, a local student-run nonprofit organization, serving on the Board of Directors as Chair of External Relations. Kate loves theatre and over the past year has spread her passion for the performing arts by serving on the City of Boise Arts & History Commission. Kate enjoys deep conversation, long walks on the beach, and invalidating teenage stereotypes. After graduating this May, she plans to attend a university and study communications and political science
Wendy Wilson is the Executive Director of Advocates for the West, a public interest environmental litigation group based in Boise, Idaho. She began her career in environmental action by starting a community-based recycling program in her hometown in Michigan. She has worked for the Idaho Conservation League, the Peregrine Fund, and is the founding director of Idaho Rivers United, a statewide advocacy groups protecting clean water, wild rivers and wild fish.
Wendy has also led national water conservation programs for more than a decade. She helped organize and support watershed protection groups across the country through River Network, based in Portland, Oregon, and trained new activists about the impacts of climate change. She is the co-author of two groundbreaking reports on the nexus between water and energy, one of which was cited in the most recent International Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report.