Past Speakers

Kimberly Moore Dalal



Kimberly Moore Dalal, MD, FACS is the Medical Director of Surgical Oncology, Mills-Peninsula, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and Medical Director, Pancreas Surgical Oncology, California Pacific Medical Center, Bay Area Sutter Health, California. Having graduated from Harvard College magna cum laude and from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as Alpha Omega Alpha, she matched in general .surgery at the University of California at San Francisco where she completed her internship.  She finished her general surgery residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. On the National level, Dr. Dalal was selected to represent the American College of Surgeons to the Commission on Cancer. She was also chosen to serve as a member of the High-Risk Upper GI Working Group of the American College of Surgeons that will set standards of excellence for pancreas cancer surgery in the United States; she is the only community private practice surgeon in the pancreas subgroup. Dr. Dalal’s pride and joy are her family, including her two children and new puppy, with whom she likes to travel, cook, and run.


Gabriel Guillén



Dr. Gabriel Guillén is an Assistant Professor in Spanish at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). At MIIS, Dr. Guillén teaches language courses such as Spanish Social Entrepreneurship, Spanish Storytelling, and Spanish in the Community, connecting Spanish and English learners in the Monterey County.  His research focuses on language learning social networks for both formal and informal learners, which led him to launch the first community of blogs for the interchange of languages back in 2006. Thirteen years later, Dr. Guillén is still an active researcher and practitioner in the field of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) with a new focus on local intercultural exchanges.


Reverb, Student-led Performance Club


Reverb is an instrumental, songwriting, and performance group dedicated to making music. We hope to bring people from all musical backgrounds together to create new styles of expression and cultivate a love of innovation and harmony.



Eugene Cordero

Dr. Eugene Cordero is currently employed as a professor in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University.  His research interests are aligned with understanding how our climate is changing as a result of both natural and anthropogenic processes, dealing with climate change and atmospheric dynamics. Some of his present projects in this field include “detection and attribution of climate change” and “wave-ozone feedbacks and the solar cycle.” Dr. Cordero elaborates that he is “presently interested in developing new methods for teaching climate change that engage the public and ultimately stimulate social change.”


Kakani Katija


Dr Kakani Katija is a bioengineer dedicated to developing underwater technologies to better observe biological and physical processes where they happen in the ocean. She is currently a Principal Engineer and Principal Investigator at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and heads the Bioinspiration Lab. Dr. Katija was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2011 and a Kavli Research Fellow in 2013. Although Dr. Katija currently does her research in the ocean, her education began in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Washington, before receiving her Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Katija is also a former ice dancer and member of the U.S. International Figure Skating Team.

Melissa Ault Ricci



Melissa Ault Ricci’s passion for service is seen through her lifelong support of community organizations and her time as a paralegal in United States Army. Melissa currently serves on United Nations Association, Monterey Bay Board of Directors. She previously served on the YWCA Monterey County Board of Directors, is an avid supporter of Monterey Museum of Art and Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, and both worked and volunteered for the Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management and the Monterey County Superior Courts as a mediator and conflict consultant. She holds a Jurist Doctorate from Monterey College of Law, an Executive Certificate in Negotiations, a Mediation Certification, and an undergraduate degree in Legal Studies and Literature, with a focus on Women’s Literature.


Rebecca Cafiero


Rebecca Cafiero grew up in a small town with dreams to make a big impact. When having it all as a successful corporate executive didn’t lead her to happiness, she changed her perspective, her career, and her life. This change inspired her to marry her extensive executive background with her passion for healthy living and assisting others, leading to the creation of her Elevate Your Life Project. This project is a platform that empowers people to lead their healthiest, happiest, and most abundant lives. Now, as a lifestyle expert, speaker, and writer, she utilizes her passion in her career to change people’s way of living. 


 Frank Fraone


Frank Fraone is a highly qualified, results-oriented, executive-level manager offering 35 years of fire service, emergency management, administrative direction, and training program management. Mr. Fraone possesses exemplary hands-on leadership, mentoring, and vision while fostering a supportive and collaborative workforce in a diverse environment. Frank Fraone has a track record of exceptional program administration reinforced by ethical judgment, skillful decision-making, use of reliable business practices, outstanding verbal and written communication skills, comprehensive knowledge of local, state and federal regulations, and three decades of technical and leadership experience cultivating relationships and exceeding expectations within a world-class emergency management organization and in private sector.


Maria Giannini


Maria Giannini is the former Vice President and current senior producer of e2k Sports. She has had the opportunity to travel the world and work with clients such as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Microsoft, Sony, Marvel Films, and Pixar. Maria also served as the Executive Director for the San Diego Charger Girls for nearly 15 years. Now, she is very active in her community, working with several local non-profit groups, like The Boys and Girls Club and the Junior League of Monterey County. Maria is passionate about dual language immersion in education and is a founding member of Dual Language Program Advocates. Maria currently resides in Salinas, California with her husband, Dirk Giannini, and their two daughters.


Ron Johnson

(Photo by Vernon McKnight)2017

Ron Johnson, a native to the Monterey Peninsula, is the Associate Vice President for Boys & Girls Club of Monterey County. A former wide-receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, three-time Eastern All-Star while with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and a five season player for the Philadelphia Eagles, Mr. Johnson retired from professional football in 1990 to pursue his true passion: working with youth. Mr. Johnson, along with former Philadelphia Eagles teammate Anthony Toney, created the Johnson-Toney Football Camp in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County not only to teach youths about football, but to introduce positive and basic characteristics essential to life: gratefulness, self-control, loyalty, honor, responsibility, truthfulness, and integrity. Mr. Johnson currently lives in Monterey with his wife Lynn, and their two sons.


Ana Leon


Ana Leon Nuñez is in her senior year at Santa Catalina School. She was born in Mexico City and moved from Acapulco, Guerrero to Monterey, California when she was 14 years old. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household and has had to adapt to living in a different country, which has defined her character. She is currently applying to college in the United States and looks forward to studying theatre and political science.


Amy East



Amy East is a research geologist part of the United States Geological Survey in Santa Cruz. She’s worked on numerous projects involving the removal of dams, including the Elwha Dam and the Glines Canyon Dam, as well as studying other marine geological hazards, such as dams, earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides. She is passionate about the environment, and also enjoys backpacking and spending time outdoors.

Edwin Aoki


Edwin Aoki is a vice president and Technology Fellow at PayPal, where he acts as the company’s Chief Architect. He leads the Strategic Architecture Team, tasked with defining the company’s long term technical roadmap and enabling the technologies that will allow the company to change the future of money.

Prior to joining PayPal in 2010, Edwin spent thirteen and a half years at Netscape and AOL as Technology Fellow and Chief Architect, overseeing architecture and technology strategy for many of AOL’s consumer facing products, including instant messaging, mail, mobile, enterprise and developer programs. Edwin’s earlier roles include positions with Intuit, GO Corporation, and Apple Computer.

Edwin is a published author and makes his home in California, where he enjoys the Bay Area’s abundance of good food, great wine, and opportunities to enjoy the natural world. When he’s not at work, Edwin is involved with wildlife conservation and likes to spend time with big cats.

Shireen Jaffer



Shireen Jaffer is the founder at Skillify and a graduate of the USC Marshall Business School.  Shireen is passionate about helping students understand their value and teaching them how to find their success in their own ways.  She resides in Northern California and works with educators across the state to ensure that schools are equipping students with the relevant skills needed for them to thrive long-term, inside and outside of the academic environment.  

Jennifer Marshall



Jennifer Marshall, co-founder and executive director of This is My Brave, is committed to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. After being diagnosed with Type 1 Bipolar Disorder in 2006, she turned to writing as a way of healing, and her award-winning blog BipolarMomLife was born. Her organization has created a platform, which includes the This is My Brave YouTube Channel, for other people living with mental illness to share their stories and inspire others. Marshall’s ground-breaking approach is beginning to change the discussion and perception of mental illness. 

Kim Chambers


In 2007, after a freak accident, medical experts informed Kimberley Chambers that she had a 1% chance of walking unassisted again, but she knew she had to prove all the doctors and surgeons wrong. Nominated for New Zealand’s preeminent sports award, the Halberg Sportswoman of the Year in 2015, Kim has now completed open-water swims of extraordinary lengths, becoming the third woman, sixth person, and first New Zealander to ever finish the Oceans Seven, seven challenging and risky swims around the world. For the past two consecutive years, Kimberley has been nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Association Woman of the Year Award. On August 8th 2015, Kimberley set a new world record becoming the 1st woman ever to swim from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, a 30-mile swim that took 17 hours.

Suzannah Scully



Suzannah Scully is an executive coach who guides thought leaders to achieve their vision and potential. She received her B.A. in Sociology from UCLA and her C.P.C.C. from The Coaches Training Institut

e and has a background working for large organizations such as Gap, Williams-Sonoma, and The Wine Group. She is a host of the popular podcast Cosmos In You, and she currently coaches executives at companies such as Apple, Sephora and Airbnb to develop their creative, leadership and communication skills.

Tracy Huebner


As the leader of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, Tracy brings a wealth of experience identifying, describing, and researching innovative education practices and trends and connecting researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. She has researched trends in college and career readiness, high school reform, digitally enhanced education, and Common Core standards for organizations such as Google, the Gates Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, and the CORE districts in California.  Previously, Huebner worked at the Harvard Children’s Initiative as a lecturer and researcher on complex evaluations for school-based programs. Huebner received an MA and PhD in education from Stanford University and completed postdoctoral work at Harvard University as a Spencer Fellow in Education.

Lisa Abramson

Lisa Profile Shot


Lisa Abramson is an entrepreneur, executive coach and advocate for maternal mental health. She co-founded Mindfulness Based Achievement, the New MBA, which teaches high potential women leaders how to create sustainable success. Lisa has been featured in Fast Company, sharing 5 Ways To Lean In Without Burning Out. Over 10,000 people have taken part in her free 30 Day Meditation Challenge. Lisa graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN and lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. In her talk, “Let’s Talk about Postpartum Psychosis,” Lisa shares her thoughts on the stigma of postpartum mental ill health and her ideas for helping new mothers get the help they need.

Kelly Coleman

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Kelly Coleman is the executive director and co-founder of Save the Rain, a nonprofit organization committed to serving the victims of the Global Water Crisis. For the past decade, Save the Rain has helped bring clean drinking water to over a quarter of a million people in East Africa. With a deep belief in sustainability and abundance, Kelly works to empower students and service groups around the country. In her talk, “A drop of rain unlocks the door to abundance,” Kelly  shares her ideas about how to improve the lives of all children, especially the disenfranchised.

Dorothy E. Denning


Dorothy E. Denning is Distinguished Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School. Prior to coming to NPS, she taught at Purdue University and


Georgetown University, and worked in research labs at SRI International and Digital Equipment Corporation. Her teaching and research have focused on cyber security and cyber conflict. Dr. Denning is author of Information Warfare and Security and has testified before the U.S. Congress on encryption policy and cyber terrorism. She has received numerous awards and was inducted into the inaugural class of the National Cyber Security Hall of Fame. Her talk, “Open Doors and Back Doors: Why Cybercrime is a Growing Threat,” is extremely thought-provoking.

Jordan Gersh ’17



Jordan Gersh, a Santa Catalina School boarding student from Redwood City, has faced numerous challenges in her life, from being diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in 2000, to learning she was dyslexic as a young student, to surviving a near-death experience while undergoing a routine surgical procedure last year and then, most recently, facing her mother’s diagnosis of brain cancer. Yet, through each and every challenge, Jordan has seen a new door open to her, allowing her to become a better person. Jordan finds great meaning in the words of Robert H. Schuller, “Tough times never last, tough people do!” Jordan’s  insights and the lessons she has learned in her talk, “When Life Gives You Lemons,” will certainly give you pause for thought.

Gail McWilliams

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Gail McWilliams is a seasoned speaker, author, and national radio host who engages her audiences with challenge, humor and life-changing inspiration. Her courageous and gripping story of gradually losing her eyesight while having her children is the backdrop to her life-message of vision that sees no limits. Gail says, “In my darkest hour vision was birthed, and when you have vision you can see in the darkest places of life.” She is humorous, challenging, and unforgettable. Gail exudes hope, vision, and the ability to see beyond any obstacle. In her talk, “Stuck or Positioned… It’s Your Choice,” she shares her personal inspiration and motivation to help others take steps toward a high sense of purpose and toward making their their personal dreams a reality.

Christian Reilly

DReills TEDx


Christian Reilly is the Director of Santa Catalina School’s Marine Ecology Research Program. Besides teaching marine science, he is a SCUBA instructor and Instructor for Diving Rescue and First Aid for Professional Divers and is a volunteer at the Pacific Grove Hyperbaric Chamber, which treats victims of dive injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning. Dr. Reilly holds a B.S. from The Evergreen State College, an M.A. from Bodton University, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.  He has a Whitely Fellowship for authors at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Lab as well as teacher fellowship from the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research. In his talk, “The Importance of Going Out,” Dr. Reilly shares his ideas about the way scientific education and research can and should be.

Michael Vollstedt


Michael Vollstedt grew up in a small town in Montana and then moved to California where he went on to graduate from Santa Clara University. Married for twenty-four years to a Santa Catalina School alumna and the father of three children, Michael has lived on the Monterey Peninsula for over three decades, working in the financial industry. Over the past twenty years, he has lived with a serious heart condition, which finally ended last year with a heart transplant. With the utmost positivity and enthusiasm, Michael will share his ideas about the meaning of life and death, and the miracle of modern medicine in his talk “Opening the Doors to Life.”

Tony Prophet, Business Leader



Tony Prophet is Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Windows Marketing – leading pricing, product marketing, brand strategy, go-to-market strategy and Windows Store. Throughout his career, Mr. Prophet has been an industry champion for protecting the rights of young workers, educating female workers on women’s health issues, and improving schools for the children of migrant workers. In his talk “Business Social Responsibility,” Prophet explains today’s push for corporations to emphasize their social responsibility. Corporations which practice transparency and which are held accountable for their business practices can spur big changes to protect the environment and to improve the lives of people and the communities in which they live.

Nínive Clements Calegari ’89, Educator and Author

Nínive Clements Calegari '89


Nínive Clements Calegari ’89, an alumna of Santa Catalina School, is the president and founder of the Teacher Salary Project and 826 Valencia, former executive director of 826 National, and, currently the Brave New Voices Network Initiatives Director. With Dave Eggers and Daniel Moulthrop she co-authored Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers (The New Press, 2005). In her talk “Teachers: A Matter of the Heart,” Clements Calegari ’89 explains that the greatest asset of the United States today is its school children… and the teachers who educate them . Given teachers’ important role in setting children on a successful path for life, why are we failing to nurture, cherish, respect and pay teachers well? How can we change that?

Deborah Goldstein, Philanthropist

Deborah Goldstein


Deborah Goldstein, founder of Enlightened Philanthropy, is dedicated to guiding the next generation in giving while drawing from years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management. As part of her multi-generational work, she focuses in particular on advising youth as they navigate the world of philanthropy. Ms. Goldstein aims  to inspire and empower young people to think of themselves as philanthropists. In her talk “Are you a Philanthropist?,” Goldstein urges us to redefine philanthropy so it is more inclusive, and to ensure that our own philanthropic work is in alignment with our values.

Jeannine Pacioni, Prosecutor

Jeannine Pacioni


Jeannine Pacioni, Monterey County Assistant District Attorney, has dedicated her career to the pursuit of justice. As Deputy District Attorney, Ms. Pacioni fought long and hard for a conviction in the long-unsolved 1997 murder of Monterey High School student Kristopher Olinger. In her talk “Passion for Justice,” Pacioni describes Kristopher’s brutal murder, his family’s arduous journey to solve the crime, and her own resolve to get justice for his family.

Imran Siddiquee, Writer and Filmmaker

Imran Sidiquee_headshot


Imran Siddiquee is a writer committed to promoting gender equity and racial justice. He is the former Director of Communications and was a founding staff member of The Representation Project, a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices caused by gender stereotypes. He has helped create and lead large-scale campaigns to challenge sexist media, increase media representation for marginalized people and shift the way society views gender. In his talk “How Hollywood can Tell Better Love Stories,” Siddiquee explains that film is fundamentally an experience in empathy — “it’s about understanding others.” For over a hundred years, Hollywood has trained us to believe that love belongs more frequently to certain people. How can Hollywood change that today and, in so doing, expand our collective conception of love?

Aimee David, Ocean Conservationist

Aimee David


Aimee David is the Director of Ocean Conservation Policy & Initiatives at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Since 2005, she has helped develop and advance federal and state policies to improve ocean health and protect marine wildlife at the state and national levels, and throughout the Pacific Ocean. Prior to the Aquarium, Ms. David served on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in Washington, D.C., where she participated in the research and development of a comprehensive suite of recommendations to the President and Congress for improving U.S. ocean governance and management. In her talk, “Empowering Aquariums to Save Our Oceans,” David speaks of the disturbing and destructive practice of shark finning and how it has led to a substantial decline in the world’s shark populations. While the Monterey Bay Aquarium has helped lead the way in banning shark finning and shark fin products, what can other aquariums do to ban this practice and advance ocean policy in general at the state and national levels?