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Keynote Speakers

Opening General Session

OpeningKeynoteJade Simmons is a born storyteller, a classically trained pianist and a creator of transformational experiences designed to activate audiences into becoming the biggest, boldest version of themselves possible. The world-class concert artist has been called a “musical force of nature” with an “uncanny ability to connect with the sounds of today.” Nicknamed “Classical Music’s #1 Maverick,” Jade’s electrifying, genre-bending concert adventures span Rachmaninoff all the way to rap and include virtuoso storytelling, uncommon insights, and boundless inspiration.

As the daughter of a civil rights activist, Jade learned a lot about choosing her battles by watching her father vehemently fight them all. Equally a product of her mother’s faith-focused child rearing, Jade speaks passionately about the role purpose-based living has played in building her life and her diversified career. Jade trained in piano performance at Northwestern and Rice Universities. On stage, she delivers stunning main-stage keynote presentations with the potent combination of music, virtuoso performance, and riveting storytelling. A top-notch “experiential” speaker who uses music to powerfully drive her points home.
Simmons' specialty is activating a renewed and redefined sense of purpose. She speaks on cultivating innovation and originality, the strategies behind audacious leadership, and she offers takeaways that unleash momentum in life and business. Jade Simmons has performed at The White House, and she received the Sphinx Organization’s Medal of Excellence in a concert hosted by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and held at the US Supreme Court.

Closing General Session

ClosingKeynoteBrandon Stanton shares his journey of personal growth and discovery, and uncovers the stories behind the stories featured on Humans of New York (HONY), powerfully illustrating the value of sharing your experiences. 

As the founder of the street portrait blog, Humans of New York, Brandon has emerged as a worldwide Internet phenomenon and one of today’s most influential storytellers. With millions of social media followers, his individual story, like those on HONY, illustrates the power of the Internet, the value of storytelling, and our desire to remain connected with real people in a tech-driven world. 

On stage, he candidly shares his own personal story, and the perspective he has gained since embarking on his journey to help others tell theirs. Listeners take away a renewed appreciation for the power of one person and one idea to inspire millions, and encouragement to be a force for good and contribute something meaningful to the world.

Check out the HONY Instagram page and become a follower! 

NCAL Day Opening General Session

NCALOpeningKeynoteNatalie Fikes is a fiery speaker, facilitator, and executive leadership coach on a relentless mission to transform family, business, and community. In 2003, Natalie became the youngest, African American female in management for Verizon's Southeast Region. She then took a team of underperforming sales and service associates to the top of the district.

Following her desire to do meaningful work, Natalie started Code Next Generation, a youth organization that successfully transitions youth to adulthood. In 2015, she was named one of John Maxwell's Top 100 Leaders, with participants of her program receiving White House recognition from President Barack Obama for exceptional community service.

In 2021, Natalie was inducted into the Marquis Who's Who of America. She has served as the COO for The African American Association of USA, and the Central Regional Director of Training and Development for Black Wallstreet USA. Natalie is an active member of The National Association of Nonprofit & Executives, The National Association For Family, School & Community Engagement, and has facilitated training classes at The City of Refuge in Atlanta, Georgia since 2017.

NCAL Day Closing General Session

NCALClosingKeynoteLinda Cohen has been known as the “Kindness Catalyst” for more than a decade. She is a sought-after professional speaker and consultant on the ROI of Kindness. Cohen's first book, 1,000 Mitzvahs: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change Your Life was published in 2011. Her second book, The Economy of Kindness: How Kindness Transforms Your Bottomline was recently published in October 2021. She helps leaders improve communication, boost teamwork and improve the employee engagement by focusing on a strong culture of kindness. Cohen earned her BA from American Jewish University and an MA from Brandeis University. Cohen served as president of the Oregon chapter of the National Speakers Association in 2018-19.

NFP & ID/DD Program General Session

NFP-ID/DDGeneralSessionRon Hetrick is the Senior Labor Economist and VP of Staffing Product at Emsi Burning Glass. With 30 years experience in labor economics, he is a leading expert in the current state of the U.S. labor market. Ron brings nearly 30 years of labor force economic experience to Emsi Burning Glass. He had a 20-year career with Allegis Group building and overseeing market analytics and data science teams and was a senior and supervisory economist for 8 years with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington D.C. Quoted by CBS, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and numerous nationally syndicated news channels and magazines on a near weekly basis, Hetrick has provided analysis for prior Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, The Council of Economic Advisors to the President, Congress, and numerous Fortune 100 companies and trade associations.