Supersonic traveler, social justice warrior, global explorer, eclipse-chaser— these are a few of the kinds of speakers who will be presenting ideas about a “Point of Departure” this July in Denver for the TEDxMileHigh conference. TED Talks, if you haven’t heard of them yet, are short speeches (usually less than 20 minutes) on topics within technology, entertainment and design that inspire people all over the world. TEDx events are independently organized, though they follow the same devotion to spreading interesting and helpful ideas. Denver will host the TEDxMileHigh conference on July 7 and 8 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House with 22 presenters and 2,400 attendees.
Though the exact topic a speaker will discuss is a surprise until you see their talk, 303 Magazine has outlined 11 of the speakers this year with a little information about who they are and why they might fit into the overall theme “Point of Departure.” The majority of the speakers either live in the Front Range or are from Colorado, and a full list of speakers can be found here. Tickets for this upcoming TEDxMileHigh are available online, and one ticket is valid for as many talks as you can manage to see during the two days. Prices range from $70 to $500.
Cassie De Pecol: Global Explorer
Cassie De Pecol is the fastest woman to travel to all 196 sovereign countries alone, a feat that took her 18 months and won her two Guinness World Records. Her story has been broadcast all over the world since she completed her journey and the lessons she learned while traveling have inspired her to become a keynote speaker, brand ambassador, activist and entrepreneur. She has been interviewed about how she afforded her travels, what it was like traveling solo as a woman and many other topics.
Alejandro Jimenez: Poet + Educator
Poet, educator and long-distance runner Alejandro Jimenez was the first of his family to graduate college. Originally from Colima, Mexico, Jimenez is bilingual and writes in both Spanish and English. He was the first Latino to win the Su Barrio Slam Poetry competition in 2011 and went on to become part of the SlamNUBA Poetry team the next year. He moved to Denver in 2009 to lend a helping hand to immigrant rights organizations and has been an active member of the community ever since, including his aid to an after-school program for high school students in North Denver. In an interview with TEDx organizers, Jimenez remarksd, “Words are medicine in a lot of ways.”
Arielle Hein: Creative Technologist
Arielle Hein is an instructor at the ATLAS Institute of the Technology, Arts and Media in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at University of Colorado Boulder where she explores the intricate relationships between technology and our human experience. Hein is educated in architecture, but admitted to herself that the real intrigue from that came from designing spaces where people experience something unique or profound. She said, “The questions I always come back to are, ‘What does this mean for our human experience?’ ‘How does it change the way we communicate?’ and ‘How does it change our relationships with the people in our lives?’” Her main focus when she teaches is the imaginative use of emerging technologies.
Austin Eubanks: Addiction Treatment Expert
As one of the injured survivors of the Columbine shooting, Austin Eubanks struggled in his late teens and early adult years with addiction. Now, in long-term recovery, Eubanks is a nationally recognized speaker on addiction recovery and is the Chief Operations officer of The Foundry Treatment Center in Steamboat Springs. He uses his own experiences to powerfully inspire audiences, beginning on the tragic day of the shooting in April 1999. Of this journey, Eubanks wrote, “I found recovery after learning every way that doesn’t work.”
Blake Scholl: Supersonic Traveler
Blake Scholl might have one of the coolest job titles ever — Supersonic Traveler. As the founder and CEO of Boom Supersonic, a Denver start-up, Scholl and his team build supersonic passenger aircraft that can fly from San Francisco to Tokyo in under six hours (a flight that would normally take over 10.) He received his B.S. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, worked at Amazon and created a mobile technology startup that was acquired by Groupon before moving to Denver with his entrepreneurial spirit.
Brittni Darras: Enlightened Educator
Internationally recognized high school English teacher Brittni Darras wrote each one of her 130 students a personal note after a student attempted suicide at Rampart High School in Colorado Springs (where she works.) It took her two months to write the notes. She received the AspenPointe Hero of Mental Health Award and the Mayor’s Young Leader Award in the category of Innovation in Education for that act of kindness. Her response was, “For these other kids, it’s very hard for us to know who is struggling with thoughts of depression or suicide. If she had that response and I couldn’t see her as having struggles, the only thing I could think to do was to write every single one of them a unique card.” She is an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
David Baron: Eclipse Chaser
With a large chunk of his career as a journalist covering environment and science topics for NPR outlets like “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Weekend Edition,” David Baron changed career courses to pursue writing books. In 2003 he wrote The Beast in the Garden, a description of the first fatal mountain lion attack in Colorado and the events leading up to that attack, which won the Colorado Book Award. He considers himself “an avid umbraphile” (meaning he loves eclipses) who has witnessed five total solar eclipses and he plans on traveling to Wyoming in August of this year to witness the first total eclipse to be visible in this country in 99 years.
Flobots: Artists and Activists
Flobots raided the KTCL airwaves in 2007 with their song “Handlebars” and have since been elevated in the Denver music scene for their hip-hop, rock and sometimes funky tunes that are always fueled by political messages. “Armed with musicianship, intelligence and an ingrained sense of rebellion, Flobots are looking to engage a new musical culture, one mind at a time,” read their website. Their most recent album, NoEnemies — released in May 2017 — focuses on issues like climate change and immigration reform.
Theo E.J. Wilson: Social Justice Warrior
Theo E.J. Wilson is a Denver-based slam poet also known as Lucifury. He is the founding member of SlamNUBA Poetry team, winner of the National Poetry Slam in 2011, and an activist for social justice. At age 15 he was already using his public speaking skills with the NAACP. He is the current Executive Director of Shop Talk Live — a podcast which uses the staging of a barbershop to discuss community issues and promote healing.
Phil Mitchell: Healthcare Maverick
Phil Mitchell completed his residency at Denver Health & Hospitals in 2001 as the chief resident, where he earned the “most outstanding resident” award. Since then, he has worked as an emergency physician in the Denver metro area. Currently, he is the Medical Director at DispatchHealth, where he created “the parameters for the clinical capabilities of their mobile emergency and urgent care model.” His main focuses throughout his career have been on patient safety and the “delivery of quality evidence-based medicine,” according to the DispatchHealth website.
Esther Sullivan: Equal Housing Maven
Esther Sullivan is touted as an “equal housing maven” because of her work on poverty, spatial inequality, legal regulation, housing and built environments. She is an assistant professor of sociology at University of Colorado Denver, though she received all of her education out-of-state. First, receiving a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago and then receiving her Ph.D. in Sociology from University of Texas Austin.
TEDxMileHigh is a great way to expand your horizons and learn something new, tear up at something poignant or relate to someone’s story in a way you didn’t think possible. With two days of talks, there are almost too many options for what to see and experience. Maybe one of these speakers will inspire you with your own “Point of Departure.” For more information about the upcoming event, information about previous TEDxMileHigh events and to apply in the future, visit this website.