Keynote Speakers

Merlyna Valentine photo

Merlyna Valentine

Merlyna Valentine is highly sought-after international speaker, author, and consultant. She retired after thirty years having served as a teacher, principal, and executive director in an extraordinarily successful school district in Louisiana. Her transformational leadership as a school principal enhanced the school’s climate and culture which resulted in increased attendance and student achievement. 

About Merlyna

Merlyna will speak on "The Power of Story," a compelling message that will remind us that we have the power to tell the stories that make a difference. Ms. Valentine will demonstrate the powerful way storytelling can be utilized as a tool to communicate, exchange knowledge, and engage learners. Ms. Valentine has received numerous awards and commendations such as teacher of the year and principal of the year.  She was featured in several news segments and articles including a spotlight in Ebony Magazine and a featured segment on the Today Show.  In the face of tragedy and daunting obstacles, Ms. Valentine unleashed a remarkable inner strength that enabled her to lead by example. She has learned some valuable lessons since 2007, when her life as she knew it was forever changed and she experienced the closest call to death imaginable. Instead of focusing on what happened and what’s missing from her new life, Ms. Valentine chooses to embrace this very different path with a positive attitude.  Through her current endeavors as an international speaker and consultant, Ms. Valentine empowers audiences to embrace change and build their resiliency.

Steve Perry Photo

Dr. Steve Perry

Dr. Perry is an internationally renowned educational leader, speaker, bestselling author, and advocate. It starts with the belief that those who can do better, should. Dr. Steve Perry’s career is framed by the belief that each of us has something to contribute to society. Parents, advocates, educators, and celebrities seek his counsel because he continues to do the work and fight for the voiceless. Dr. Perry will speak on "Tech Allows Us to Think Differently."

About Dr. Perry

Formed while attending public housing tenants’ association meetings with his mother, Perry’s commitment “to do better”, became the force that drove him. Starting in high school as a volunteer on Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign then graduating from the Ivy League, and returning to his hometown of Middletown, CT to run the homeless shelter, Dr. Perry has sought opportunities to do better.

No experience more precisely applied his belief of “those who can do better, should”, than starting schools. Perry began the Capital Preparatory Schools journey in Hartford, CT in 2005. They expanded to an elementary school in Hartford in 2008, Bridgeport, CT in 2015, Harlem in 2016, another elementary school in Bridgeport in 2017, and then another 6-12 in the Bronx, NY in 2020. Serving over 2,000 primarily low-income minority first-generation collegiates, in grades pre-k to 12th grade, Capital Prep has sent 100% of its graduates to four-year colleges, every year from conception in 2005. The unparalleled success of Capital Prep Schools has made Dr. Perry an internationally renowned educational leader, speaker, bestselling author, and advocate.

Justin Romack Photo

Justin Romack

Justin Romack is an Assistant Director with the Department of Disability Resources at Texas A&M University, where he works with faculty, staff and students to promote equitable access to the Aggie experience for disabled students. After losing his eyesight as a college student in 2008, Justin’s skills as a communicator and educator were enhanced through resilience, creativity and courage as he found new ways to explore the world without his vision. 

About Justin

Justin will share his own story through education as a disabled student. But this is not just a story, it’s a call to action, as participants examine the changing landscape of assistive and accessible technologies, common barriers influencing disabled learners, and ways to adjust our understanding to promote equity and justice through our roles. Justin has two decades of experience working with assistive technology, technical accessibility and disability education, where he works with students, teachers, businesses about how to ensure what we do, construct and create is accessible to everyone. Justin has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Stephen F. Austin State University and is currently a graduate student in the Higher Education Administration program at Texas A&M University.