TEDxSt Petersburg College

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  • Date: April 10, 2024 Wed
  • Time: 9:00 am
  • Location: Hough Concert Hall
  • Tickets: $10-$20

General Admission: $20.
Students: $10.

Doors open at 8am for seating.

TEDxSt Petersburg College is a single-day conference experience that hosts a series of speakers, each presenting a TEDx talk to a diverse audience of 100+ thinkers, creators, and doers. The stage is set to have meaningful conversations and gain new insights into: ‘Redefining Learning for the Next Generation.’

There will be 10 speakers at the event. They include:

  • Bozena Gasior
  • Kristen Jacobsen
  • Christine Laurenzi
  • Tara Newsom
  • Nick Padlo
  • Brian Peret
  • Tony Selvaggio
  • Marlee Strawn
  • Theresa Worthy
  • AJ Eckstein

About the Speakers

AJ Eckstein is a global speaker, writer for Fast Company and Business Insider, consultant to Fortune 500 companies, and the founder of Creator Match, the #1 LinkedIn Creator Marketing Platform.  As a LinkedIn Creator and Top Voice for Hiring, AJ has made significant contributions to the professional landscape. AJ’s expertise extends to being one of the youngest LinkedIn Learning Instructors, with two courses (on the topic of Professional Networking and Strategic Problem Solving) boasting 80,000+ learners. He graduated from the USC Marshall School of Business and was awarded the "Most Outstanding President Award" out of 20,000 undergraduate students.  Beyond work, AJ competes in Olympic Triathlons and Ultramarathons and lives "the search" for surfing, snowboarding, and mountain biking.

Bozena Gasior is an adjunct professor of German and English as a Second Language (ESL) at the University of Tampa and Saint Petersburg College in Florida. She is deeply committed to advocating for the special needs community. Bozena served as a parent co-chair of the Pinellas County Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Advisory Committee for many years and is a champion for supporting the disabled in fulfilling their potential to participate actively in their communities. Bozena’s book, "I Heard the Light: A Mother's Story of Her Son's Journey Through Autism to Self-Expression," shares her young son's own journey to self-expression through music – eventually becoming a prodigious classical and jazz pianist. While dedicated to her son’s inspiring story of adapting to his autism, her book offers hope and encouragement to caregivers of all those with special needs.

Kristen Jacobsen, LCPC, holds degrees in Counseling Psychology and Educational Studies.  She has been a licensed therapist for over 15 years, specializing in anxiety, complex trauma, and relationships.  She established her own practice in Chicago in 2013 and has served as a mentor for many upcoming professionals entering the mental health field.  Kristen has been a Psychology professor at National Louis University for the past 6 years and was promoted to the role of Professional Adjunct Lecturer.  She also facilitates continuing education training for clinicians and other healthcare professionals around the Chicago area.

For a decade, Christine Laurenzi, was a passionate educator and leader. However, she recognized the limitations of traditional school systems.  Determined to make a difference, she launched Indi-ED - an experiential, independent school in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg that centers students, encourages real world experiences, and allows everyone to  reach their full potential.

After another decade of breaking down misconceptions around student achievement, she has showcased her innovative ideas on prestigious platforms such as another TED stage, Forbes, and most recently took top honors in a national competition that awarded transformative educational institutions.  Indi-ED is inspiring, motivating, and shaping the future of education.

With Indi-ED’s & our event’s focus on the next generation, it only makes sense that today we welcome Christine and some of her Indi-ED students. Please welcome: Christine, Leila, Khloe, Bella, Zoey, Grace, Eva, & Quinn

STUDENTS NAMES: Quinn Gilbert, Bella Goudelock, Grace Harrison, Khloe Murray, Zoey Rydbeck, Eva Spytek, Leila Wallace.

Tara Newsom is a Professor at St. Petersburg College and serves as the founding  Director of  SPC’s Center for Civic Learning & Community Engagement. Tara’s academic focus is on strengthening student success thru civic & community engagement, capitalizing on the unique interests and skill sets individuals bring to their community. Newsom currently focuses on American National Government coursework and teaches Ethics, Constitutional Theory, State & Local Government. Equal access to civil liberties for all students continues to be a priority for her. She also serves as a board member for the Center of Excellence for Teaching & Learning (CETL). Tara her J.D. from the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law, and an L.L.M in Law & Government from American University Washington College of Law.  She’s worked at a young age as a U.S. Senatorial Page, served as a Policy Director for Michigan’s Governor Office and Chief Counsel to Lt. Governor, and as a staff member for U.S. Senator Abraham and the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Sub-Committee on Immigration. She has taught at Eastern Michigan University, Mississippi College and Eckerd College and was the recipient of the St. Petersburg College Distinguished Faculty of the Year in 2016.  She regularly contributes to PBS’s, “Florida This Week”, WUSF’s “Florida Matters”, NPR’s “America Amplified”, and serves as Political Analyst for Tampa Bay’s NBC Affiliate, WFLA News Channel 8 as well as Bay News 9.


Nick Padlo is a small business leader, entrepreneur, and native of Jacksonville Florida. He received his undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy (West Point), where he served as the Chairman of the Honor Committee. After West Point, Nick served for five years in the United States Army. Where he spent 27 months in combat operations between Afghanistan and Iraq, earning the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge. He attended Stanford University for business school, and later went on to become CEO of an Inc1000 growth company. His move into substance abuse treatment is a result of his personal battle with depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. After getting treatment himself, Nick defined his personal mission as helping others through similarly dark times. He believes that everyone can find their way back, regain their lives, and live a life free of suffering. Sophros was designed to be just that place, where clients across Florida can develop a set of tools that can help them establish their own personal road to recovery.

Brian Peret is a dedicated leader with a diverse background and passion for technology, education, and community engagement.  As Director of CodeBoxx Academy, Brian oversees the design, implementation, and assessment of programs that provide valuable technical skills to our communities. Before CodeBoxx, Brian spent years as a software engineer in the dynamic world of tech start-ups. Brian's transition to tech followed a distinguished duration in academia at the University of Wisconsin, where he taught, researched, and published peer-reviewed work in the field of tissue engineering.

Brian celebrates the diversity of human experience and loves music, nature, and his dog Sunny. He brings an engineer’s efficiency, data-driven practices, and a genuinely contagious passion to all he does. From serving as President of the Campbell Park Neighborhood Association to sitting on the Digital Inclusion Leadership Council, Brian Peret is driven to provide empowerment opportunities for communities and individuals in need.

Tony Selvaggio believes that business models are the most effective way to address social problems. He arrived in the United States in 2011, pursuing the American dream and leaving everything and everyone behind in his hometown in Venezuela. With only a couple of hundred dollars in his pocket, he discovered a welcoming community in Tampa Bay, FL, which embraced him and provided him with his life's purpose.

In 2014, Tony founded eSmart Recycling, a mission-driven business that combines environmental sustainability and social-impact metrics, which results in a holistic approach to offsetting carbon emissions through recycling technology — at both a corporate and residential level — and the empowerment of local communities by enabling access to technology and education. This endeavor thrust him into the spotlight, offering a platform to address critical issues such as access to quality education, equality of opportunity, immigration, and sustainability.

With nearly two decades of experience in education, Marlee Strawn's career started as a high school teacher and reached a significant milestone when she became the founding principal of the top-performing charter high school in the seventh largest district in the nation. Following her successful tenure as principal, Marlee transitioned to a new role in the education technology sector. As the Co-Founder and Head of Education at Scholar Education, Marlee leads the development of an AI-powered classroom enhancement platform designed to eliminate administrative burdens for teachers. It offers a comprehensive suite of AI tools designed to streamline lesson planning and deliver a personalized learning environment, with a special focus on Special Education and English Language Learners. In addition, Marlee's engagement in advancing AI in education is further acknowledged by her recent selection as a 2024 EDSAFE AI Alliance Women in AI Fellow. This prestigious year-long fellowship recognizes her as an exceptional and impact-minded individual in the field of AI and education. Through the program, Marlee engages with leading experts in AI safety, ethics, and policy, and benefits from professional development focused on the latest AI research and its societal impacts.

Theresa Worthy is a former French and English teacher with gifted certification who worked with some of the brightest and most talented students. She has a passion for language and possesses a deep understanding of the importance of communication skills. She gained a reputation as an innovative and effective educator who engaged and challenged her students. In addition to her experience in the classroom, she is also a highly sought after speaker and corporate trainer with expertise in emotional intelligence, competent communication skills, inclusivity, and self-awareness. As a fiction author, Theresa demonstrates her creativity and talent for storytelling. She is currently at work on a nonfiction book on the topic of emotional intelligence that draws on her extensive experiences and expertise. In this upcoming book she shares practical insights, tools, and strategies for personal and professional growth. Her passion for education and personal development is contagious and her commitment to excellence is unwavering.

Regina Gonzalez, a reporter for Good Day Tampa Bay on FOX 13 News, will host the event.

She attended the University of Tampa where she graduated cum laude in 2017. Gonzalez is ecstatic to be telling stories in a city she considers her second home.

“Our goal is to ignite conversations that lead to actionable change in how we think about education,” said Dr. Emmanuel Hernandez-Agosto, SPC College of Business Dean and organizer of TEDx St. Petersburg College. “We believe this event will be a catalyst for reimagining learning in a way that prepares our children, and all learners, for the future.”

The event not only highlights speakers who foster deep discussion on topics of “Redefining Learning for the Next Generation,” but it also offers a networking opportunity platform for educators, policymakers, parents, students, and community members to connect and collaborate toward shaping the future of education. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience, where x = independently organized TED event.

What is TEDx?
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxSt Petersburg College, where x = independently organized TED event. At our TEDxSt Petersburg College event, TED Talks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organized.

This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED.

About TED/About TEDx
About TEDx, x = independently organized event
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED
TED is on a mission to discover and spread ideas that spark imagination, embrace possibility and catalyze impact. Our organization is devoted to curiosity, reason, wonder and the pursuit of knowledge — without an agenda. We welcome people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world and connection with others, and we invite everyone to engage with ideas and activate them in your community.

TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, but today it spans a multitude of worldwide communities and initiatives exploring everything from science and business to education, arts and global issues. In addition to the hundreds of TED Talks curated from our annual conferences and published on, we produce original podcasts, short video series, animated educational lessons (TED-Ed) and TV programs that are translated into more than 100 languages and distributed via partnerships around the world. Each year, more than 3,000 independently run TEDx events bring people together to share ideas and bridge divides in communities on every continent. Through the Audacious Project, TED has helped catalyze more than $3 billion in funding for projects that seek to make the world more beautiful, sustainable and just. In 2020, TED launched Countdown, an initiative to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis and mobilize a movement for a net-zero future. View a full list of TED’s many programs and initiatives.

TED is owned by a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation. Our aim is to help create a future worth pursuing for all.

Follow TED on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and on LinkedIn.

Presented by St. Petersburg College.

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