Opening Speaker

eric in action

Eric Rowles is a nationally recognized trainer, speaker, and consultant whom has worked with over 150,000 youth, adults, administrators, professionals, and policy makers within the past 15 years. His presentations are legendary – by combining the energy and innovation of a master trainer, while at the same time reaching each of us through his stories, research, and on-the-ground strategies..

One part motivational speaker, one part DJ, and two parts community organizer and parent of 2 daughters, Eric runs a customized consulting and facilitation practice that, through a network of over 20 dynamic and diversely talented trainers, works with for profit and non-profit organizations to achieve progressive and dynamic change.

Eric's previous experience includes his work as Senior Director of Training with the Youth Leadership Institute where he designed a national training institute that provided over 1,000 days of training in five years to community organizations and coalitions throughout the country. Prior to his work with YLI, Eric was the Director of Leadership Development at Rutgers University (NJ), managed his own touring educational theater organization, Leadership Through Motivation Productions, was the Director of International Youth Summer Abroad programs, and spent five years as a substance abuse prevention coordinator in Los Angeles.Additionally, Eric through his double bachelors and Master of Science degrees in Ethnic Studies and Educational Leadership, he has served as a faculty member at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte as well as Rutgers University (NJ) and has over a decade of innovative and cutting edge classroom instruction and facilitation experience. Eric has also been a volunteer trainer and partner for a wide range of social change agencies and organizations including the National Conference on Community and Justice, College Leadership Diversity Conference, and Teaching Tolerance Curriculum Instruction.

In addition to his training experience, Eric has also been a professional DJ and worked with artists throughout the entertainment industry, including Gwen Stefani, Billy Joel, Notorius B.I.G., Cypress Hill, Tribe Called Quest, The Fugees, Boyz II Men, Third Eye Blind, The Roots, George Clinton & Parliament, Henry Rollins, Radiohead, Smashmouth, Weezer, Edward James Olmos, Sinbad, George Lopez, Margaret Cho, and Maya Angelou.

Get ready to laugh, play, think, work, challenge, and MOVE! This is NOT your ordinary training, and NOT your ordinary speaker. Get ready for the EXTRAORDINARY.... LEADING TO CHANGE!


Keynote Speaker


Emily Ballance, MEd, LPC, CSP entertains, educates and inspires audiences with her humor, honesty and lively stories at conferences and events across the country. Her presentations to associations, healthcare organizations, corporations, educational and financial groups have been described as “highly entertaining, uplifting and thought-provoking.” Emily frequently presents on stress management, generations, positive humor, customer service and communication.

Emily has earned the Certified Speaking Professional designation (CSP). CSP is the highest earned designation awarded by the National Speakers Association and recognized by the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), a 5000-plus member international organization. Female members of the GSF who have earned their CSP certification make up only 5% of the total membership. To earn the CSP designation, a speaker must document 250 paid speaking engagements, receive exceptionally high ratings from meeting planners and meet high professional standards in the following four areas:

• Platform skills

• Business management

• Education

• Association membership

Prior to becoming a full time speaker, Emily maintained a private counseling practice providing psychotherapy for groups and individuals. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and member of the North Carolina Counseling Association and the American Association of University Women. Emily holds a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a former lecturer, counselor and group facilitator at the Duke University Dietary Clinic (now Duke Diet and Fitness Center) in Durham, NC, and wellness consultant for StayWell, a highly successful and innovative employee wellness program at Control Data Corporation in Los Angeles, CA. Emily is a member of the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), National Speakers Association (NSA), Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, and other professional organizations.

Emily believes that positive humor helps people reduce stress, improve their work environment, build stronger relationships and make the world a better place. She has written articles on humor, health and wellness for international, national, regional and local publications. She currently lives in Raleigh, NC, and when she is not traveling or speaking, Emily volunteers her time with older adults and the Autism Society of North Carolina.

General Session Speakers

Blaire Denson is the Director of the Virginia Partnership for Out of School Time (VPOST). Prior to joining VPOST, Blaire served as a Private Educational Consultant to the Virginia Department of Education monitoring 21st Century Community Learning Center Programs across the Commonwealth. She has also served as a Title IV Program Director, Cooperative Education Director, Distance Learning Liaison, and Mentorship Coordinator. Blaire is a graduate of the inaugural class of White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellows of the Riley Institute at Furman University as a leader in the field of afterschool and expanded learning policy.

Kathryn Johnson is the Executive Director of Alternatives, a nationally recognized youth development nonprofit in Virginia where she is project director of a middle school 21st CCLC program. She is a frequent trainer for the Virginia Department of Education and serves on their 21st CCLC peer review team. As a member of the Leadership Council for the Virginia Partnership for Out of School Time she serves as the chair of the Quality Committee. In 2013 Kathy was recognized by the National Afterschool Alliance as Virginia’s Champion for Quality Afterschool and is a member of the 2015 Class of White-Riley-Petersen Policy Fellows at Furman University.