TEDxMidwest Emerging Leaders Program

Our city and society are facing great challenges. That’s why the TEDx audience invests in the next generation of leaders. These 25 honorees are selected from the areas of social entrepreneurship, civics, non-profits, business, arts, science, education and more to start making a difference.

All honorees will receive a ticket to the main event, with some actually speaking at TEDxMidwest adult or youth events. The program will include mentoring and connecting honorees to the powerful TEDx audience to help further their causes and careers.

The TEDxMidwest Emerging Leaders:


Amanda Klonsky
Program Director, Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy Program

Ana Guajardo
Executive Director, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos

Brenda Wilkerson
Program Manager, STEM Schools CPS

Brian Cunningham
Sean-nós Dancer

Carlos Pittella-Leite
Teacher, Curriculum Chair – Global Citizenship Experience

Daniya Kamran
Innovation Interventionist, Eurekatory NFP & PALS at Work

Deborah Mekbib Kifle
Founder, [Network] Supporting Education in Africa

Emmanuel Pratt
Founder Mycelia project
Co-founder Sweet Water Foundation

Joanna Klonsky,
Founder, Chicago Votes

John Roa
CEO, AKTA & Digital Hope

Maria Kim
COO, The Cara Program

Mike Rodriguez
ED, Enlace Chicago

Naomi Beckwith
Curator, MCA

Novana Venerable

Pavan Balaji
Computer Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory

Sean Graney
Founder, Hypocrites Theater

Seth Kravitz,
Founder, Technori

Ted Gonder
Founder, MoneyThink

Toussaint Losier
Founder, Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign

Victor Saad
Founder, Leap Year Project, The Experience Institute

Vineet Arora
Assoc. Professor of Medicine, Researcher patient safety, University of Chicago Hospital

Viviana Martinez
Vice General Counsel Cook County

Yuri Malina

Founder Design For America, SwipeSense

Zack Kaplan
CEO Inventables
Co-founder of ORDCamp

Zoe Damacela
Founder of Zoe Damacela Apparel



TEDxMidwest is known for its world class speakers, including inventor Dean Kamen, psychologist Phil Zimbardo, hacker Pablos Holman and National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen.
See the TEDx Speakers



There will be over 600 amazing attendees including 400 CEOs and Presidents, 150 artists and performance professionals, heads of major cultural institutions, 50 top high school students, and dozens of MacArthur, Pulitzer, Polk, Peabody, and Nobel prize winners.
More on Attendees



Interested in helping make TEDxMidwest great or helping with TEDxYouth@Midwest?
Visit our Volunteers page to view volunteer opportunities and let us know how you would like to help.