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General Session Speakers
Dr. Robert D. Ballard
Best known for his 1985 discovery of the TITANIC, Dr. Robert Ballard has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship BISMARCK, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier YORKTOWN (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy’s boat, PT-109.
Byron V. Garrett
Byron V. Garrett is Director of the Innovative Schools Program for Microsoft where he is responsible for the development and implementation of partnerships with school leaders and districts across the US.
An accomplished leader in education, Byron serves as Chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance (NFEA); a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming education through meaningful family engagement; and is the former CEO of the National PTA.
Throughout his career, he has been a visionary agent of change, promoting the idea that everyone has an obligation and opportunity to serve the best interests of our nation’s most precious resource – children.
Byron served as a lead strategist and planner for NBC News’ Education Nation featuring President Clinton, First Lady Laura Bush, and 10 sitting Governors. Byron served as Senior Advisor for the America’s Promise Alliance where he helped create the Grad Nation Campaign and produced the 1st Annual Building a Grad Nation Summit featuring Vice President Joe Biden.
Byron has a unique combination of experience from both the non-profit and governmental sectors, having served as the first Chief of Staff for the Office of Public Affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security).
Prior to this, Garrett served as National Program Leader for the National 4-H Headquarters at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the program’s seven million participants and 90,000 clubs. While at USDA he was appointed by The White House as co-convener of the Helping America’s Youth initiative, an interagency effort to address challenges facing youth and to promote successful solutions.
Earlier in his career, Garrett spent a decade in Phoenix as an education advocate and community leader. He served as the Policy Advisor for Faith and Community Initiatives for then Governor Janet Napolitano (currently U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security); prior to that role, he was the Director of the Governor’s Division for Community and Youth Development, where he administered multiple boards and commissions. Garrett is also a former K-8 charter school principal.
He has been a guest on the Today Show, MSNBC and Fox, and featured in a number of publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, JET Magazine, and was named by Ebony to its “Power 150,” an annual list of “The Most Influential Black Americans.” Garrett is a member of the Board of Directors for the CeCe Peniston Youth Foundation, Regional Advisory Board for Usher’s New Look Foundation, Parenting Magazine’s Mom’s Congress Advisory Board, and an Advisory Board Member for Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Previously, Garrett served as a columnist for the Arizona Informant and is an author of several books including “The ABC’s of Life” released by Scholastic in April 2013.
To learn more about Byron and his various projects, publications and speaking engagements, please click here.