2018 VirginiaCAN Conference Keynote Speakers

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Atif Qarni
Virginia Secretary of Education

Prior to his appointment as Governor Northam's Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni taught at Beville Middle School in Prince William County, leading courses in civics, economics, U.S History, and mathematics. He also served as a GED Night School Instructor. In 2016, Atif was recognized as the Dale City Teacher of the Year.

In addition to his work as an educator, Atif is a former Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps, and was deployed to Iraq in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has also served at the state level, having been appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to the Small Business Commission in 2013.

Secretary Qarni holds a Bachelor's in Sociology from George Washington University as well as a Master's in History and teaching license from George Mason University.

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Leah Walker
Director for Equity and Community Engagement
Virginia Department of Education

Leah currently serves as the Director for Equity and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Education where she leads statewide efforts aimed at advancing education equity, closing the achievement gap, and decreasing disproportionality in student outcomes. Leah is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and soliciting engagement and support for public education in addition to directing external communications, public relations, and outreach strategies for the Department. 

Leah has twenty years of public sector experience, having worked for Mayor Jones' Administration in the City of Richmond, the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the Virginia Democratic Caucus in the House of Delegates, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and its Foundation, Richmond City Council, and US Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. 

Leah earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Hampton University and a Master's of Public Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Download Leah Walker’s presentation here.

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Carlos Ojeda, Jr.
CEO, CoolSpeak

Carlos Ojeda, Jr. has been called one of the most dynamic youth empowerment speakers in America today. A former university administrator, professor and small business development center director, he now focuses his energy on empowering students to succeed by teaching them that their voice is their power. Combining his entrepreneurial spirit with his passion for changing the lives of youth across the country, he started CoolSpeak: The Youth Engagement Company. CoolSpeak provides motivational speakers, programs, and events designed to engage, educate and empower youth. CoolSpeak represents over 25 of the top youth speakers in the country, and has certified and licensed over 50 facilitators and practitioners nationwide. Over a million lives have been inspired to date.