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Speakers & Performers


Alice Tremaine


Alice Tremaine was born and raised in Brazil. She moved to Williamsburg, Kentucky to attend college 20 years ago. After moving away for divinity school and chaplaincy training, she returned to the area to serve as a hospice chaplain in the hollers of Clay, Harlan, Bell, Knox, Laurel and Whitley counties. Today she is a chaplain and an Advance Care Planning coordinator for a health system in Corbin, Kentucky


Andrew Brown


Hailing from the foothills of rural Eastern Kentucky, Andrew Tyler Brown has been deeply rooted in bluegrass, country and old-time music from an early age. With his father being a professional musician, Andrew came to music in a very organic fashion. Receiving his first guitar at the age of eight and quickly adding piano, bass, singing, mandolin, autoharp and songwriting to his arsenal of skills, he started taking work throughout the South at an aggressive rate. He’s built a reputation for his progressive bass playing, distinctive singing voice and easy-going attitude. Andrew has toured with artists such as Jeff Parker (Dailey and Vincent, Lonesome River Band), Nicholas Jamerson (Sundy Best), Grayson Jenkins, Josh Card, Euphor, The Coal Flowers, Chera-Lynn Kennedy, Mountain Laurel, The Local Honeys, The Price Sisters, Kyle Eldridge and John R. Miller amongst numerous others. Andrew has also served as faculty at the Louisville Folk School and the Mountain Music School.


Chelsea Nolan

Fire Starter, Musician

Chelsea Nolan is building a fire. Lit by growing up in arguably the most beautiful countrysides in the nation, surrounded by self-taught musicians who could play the pants off most any instrument, and occasionally guided by big brother and fellow singer-songwriter, Josh Nolan, Chelsea has found a way to shine a light on all the dirty corners of life. Saying more in one line than most do in an entire song, her stories are candid, gritty, real, and they carry you right along with her through the heartbreak, humility, and life lessons learned. Having graduated from songwriter stages to festival main stages (Master Musicians, Well Crafted, Kickin’ It On The Creek, Red Fest) in less than a year, Chelsea is carving her own path and making quick work of it.


Crystal Good

Poet, Advocate, Entrepreneur

Crystal Good is a member of the Affrilachian (African American Appalachian) Poets: a group of writers and artists whose creations and existence combat the erasure of African American identity in the Appalachian region, founder and CEO of Mixxed Media and a former member of the award winning literary avant garde jazz band Heroes Are Gang Leaders. Good’s advocacy bridges the arts, environment, women's health, Appalachian economic development and agriculture. She has performed in five countries, spoke at numerous colleges, universities, Waffle Houses, coffee shops and living rooms across America. In 2013, she was a presenter at TEDxLewisburg on, “West Virginia and Quantum Physics,” and has a unique speakers series, QONFAB (Kon-Fab), to help others develop their speaking/listening skills, organic innovations and social capital portfolios.


Dreama Gentry

Education Advocate

Dreama Gentry is a rural Appalachian. She is a first-generation college graduate, a hope dealer who works to ensure all Appalachian children have the opportunity to succeed. She is an advocate for rural schools who brings the voice of rural children and rural educators into policy discussions. Since 1999, Dreama Gentry has led Berea College’s educational outreach into Appalachian Kentucky as the executive director of Partners for Education, which has an annual budget of $42 million. Gentry designs and implements projects that build on four core strategies: engaging families, lifting educational aspirations, building academic skills and connecting college and career. By leveraging funding from federal programs, such as GEAR UP and Promise Neighborhoods, Gentry has provided opportunities and support to more than 100,000 rural Kentucky youth. Gentry holds a bachelor of arts in political science from Berea College and a Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky.


Drew Hubbard

Podcast Host

Drew Hubbard grew up in Pound, Virginia at the state line where Virginia and Kentucky meet. Every male in his family was somehow connected to the mining industry. He knew that mining was his connection to an income, but didn’t want to follow his father's footsteps and become a diesel mechanic. He chose to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, with the hopes to one day design the machines that his father used to worked on. He received his degree and went to work at Caterpillar Inc. to design underground mining machines. The coal markets sank and Drew took his degree and began working in more diverse industries that were not coal related. He stayed in tune with the conversation about Coal Country. The persistent misrepresentation of people in Appalachia led him and his wife to start a podcast called Speaking Over The Mountains, intended to allow the people of Appalachia to speak for themselves. The podcast has helped create a more open dialogue with people in central Appalachia.


Jonathan Piercy

Physician, Musician

Jonathan Piercy is a physician in Hazard, Kentucky. He spends most of his time teaching young doctors and medical students, with special interests in teaching the practice of evidence-based medicine and community medicine. He grew up in Beattyville and has spent 32 of his 43 years living in the 606 area code. When he isn't teaching medicine, he can often be seen with his ukulele performing as Jonathan and his Four-String Fiasco. He has appeared at ukulele festivals and dive bars throughout the US and the UK. He teaches workshops, including one on the Essentials of Funk Ukulele. For six years he was the co-host of What's Cookin' Now! on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg. He is also the creator and host of The Zen Arcade, a new and classic indie music showcase that ran for nearly ten years on WMMT and is set to return in the near future.

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Kristen Wiley and James Harrison

Scientists, Educators

Kristen and Jim run Kentucky Reptile Zoo in Slade, Kentucky. They have successfully built the zoo as a facility that provides snake venom for research purposes and educational experiences to people both throughout Kentucky and beyond. They have been featured on multiple TV shows, both locally and nationally. Kentucky Reptile Zoo is a unique resource here in Kentucky — a serious facility with scientific roots, but also one that is also incredibly engaging.


Kristin M Smith

Farmer, Chef

Kristin M. Smith is a farmer and chef from Williamsburg, Kentucky. She discovered her passion for communicating with honest, thoughtful, engaging food while living and working in rural China. She returned home to take over her family’s sixth-generation cattle farm, Faulkner Bent Farm, in 2009 and has been living and working in Appalachia ever since. After several years running a burger and taco tent at the local farmers’ market, Kristin transitioned to become an owner and the executive chef at the Wrigley Taproom and Eatery in Corbin, Kentucky — a farm-to-table Appalachian restaurant that works with area farmers to create a sustainable, supportive economy for local foodways. When Kristin isn’t chasing cattle or sharing a pumpkin pie with her prize sow, Reba Bacontire, you can find her creating a joy-filled, hospitable atmosphere at the Wrigley or traveling through Appalachia from diner to diner, looking for her next favorite food adventure.


Larah Helayne


Larah Helayne is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Mount Sterling, Kentucky. Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, her songs reflect both the beauty and struggles of living in Eastern Kentucky, while weaving in the story of her own wild and wonderful life. Her songs possess a startling honesty and an unfaltering hope that captivates anyone who takes the time to listen. Larah has been singing and playing piano since she was five years old, and thus began her love affair with music. Now seventeen, Larah has become quite the instrumentalist. You can usually find her with a banjo on her knee, or a guitar strapped around her neck, somewhere playing Kentucky Fiddle Tunes. Although her specialty is Traditional Appalachian Music, Larah also enjoys drumming, and playing electric bass and guitar. Through her songs, she tells the story of her love affair with Appalachia and inspires others to dig deep, nurture their roots and become grounded.


Lily Gardner

Leader, Activist

Lily Gardner, a sophomore at Henry Clay High School, lived in eastern Kentucky for the first eleven years of her life, before moving to Lexington. She still returns to her family’s farm in Magoffin County where they have lived continuously since 1790. Lily currently serves as the Student Co-Director of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, is a Lincoln Douglas competitor on her school Debate Team, plays lacrosse and is active in Sunrise: a youth climate change movement. She plays the piano and enjoys reading, hiking, sailing and traveling. Lily is committed to addressing pressing issues around education, climate change, equality and inclusion through active civic engagement and leadership. She credits her time living in eastern Kentucky as part of the development of her social consciousness and keen awareness of the need for engagement.


Logan Bechanan

Student, Idealist

At just 18 years old, Logan Bechanan has a vision for the Commonwealth —shaped by educational experiences and molded by personal relationships. He is a nationally recognized speaker in youth organizations, selected as a Governor’s Scholar, and has served as an aide for a political candidate. Currently on scholarship as a student at the University of Kentucky enrolled in the Lewis Honors College with a major of agricultural and medical biotechnology, Logan has a passion and vision for the youth of our state. Growing up in Carlisle, Kentucky helped shape Logan’s value of personal hope. Having been employed in both field and industry, he has a wealth of knowledge and powerful vision to better equip the youth of our area to further serve others to the best of their ability. When he’s not in school, Logan can be found operating a chrysanthemum farm with his sister Fielden, enjoying the outdoors with friends and family and seeking ways to better improve himself and enhance his message.


Mae Suramek

Social Entrepreneur

Mae has learned, lived and worked in Kentucky since she 18 years old when she came to Berea College as a freshman in 1991. She has since worked in the non-profit sector for over 20 years, beginning as a human rights investigator for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission and the North Carolina Human Relations Commission. She served as Berea College's first Asian-American Alumni Director from 2004-2012 and the Executive Director of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center from 2012-2016. Suramek serves on the board of MACED (Mountain Association for Community Economic Development). She is the founder and owner of Noodle Nirvana, a socially-conscious restaurant in Berea, Kentucky with an innovative business model that commits to living wages, supporting local food providers and significantly impacting the most pressing needs of the community by partnering with non-profits. In its first year, Noodle Nirvana sold over 37,000 noodle bowls, grew from 3 employees to 14 and raised over $30,000 for the New Opportunity School for Women. Now in its third year of operations, Noodle Nirvana has raised over $88,000 for local causes, consistently grown in sales and is negotiating discussions with three potential franchisees. Mae has a bachelor of arts in psychology from Berea College and a master of arts in counseling from Eastern Kentucky University.


Melissa Bond

Goat Wrangler, Artist

Melissa Bond is an artist, farmer and resident of Eastern Kentucky and a community development professional. She works with communities across the state on arts and youth initiatives with the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky at University of Kentucky. She has a master of arts in social responsibilities and sustainable communities, where her research focused on the women of Appalachia. She has a background in theatre and a hidden talent for zombie special effects makeup and building small scale puppets of real people.


Nathan Hall

Agricultural Entrepreneur

Nathan Hall is a 10th generation Appalachian from the coalfields of Floyd County, Kentucky. After working as an underground coal miner for several months following high school, he attended Berea College where he created an independent major in sustainable agricultural and industrial management. Hall later earned a joint master of business/BA master of environmental management at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Yale School of Management in New Haven, CT. He is now co-founding the CBD hemp company, Pine Mountain Remedies, with a fellow native Kentuckian and entrepreneurial filmmaker. This company is focused on a cooperative model in eastern Kentucky that seeks to generate value for a great number of Appalachian smallholder farmers through coordinated, distributed growing and centralized clonal propagation and CBD extraction. Hall has recently returned to his home region of eastern Kentucky to develop these projects and plans to contribute to the region’s diversification and prosperity for many years to come.


Robert Gipe


Robert Gipe won the 2015 Weatherford Award for outstanding Appalachian novel for his first novel, Trampoline. His fiction has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Still and Southern Cultures. From 1997 to 2018, Gipe was the Appalachian Program Director at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Harlan County, Kentucky. In that role, he taught English and appalachian studies and produced the Higher Ground series of community performances. Gipe is the former Director of Educational Services at Appalshop, a media arts center in Whitesburg, Kentucky. He has coordinated artist residencies, professional development workshops in the arts and classroom-based research projects in the integration of the arts in the classroom. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Wake Forest University and a master’s degree in american studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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Ryan Johns


Ryan Johns lives in Pikeville, Kentucky with his wife Jennifer, his high school sweetheart and who he has been married to for 23 years. They have four daughters Taylor, Emma, Elle and Abby. Ryan is actively involved in each of his girls’ activities and enjoys watching his kids do things they love. Ryan has held several different positions to which he is proud of including: a Wealth Advisor for Morgan Stanley, Manager of Wells Fargo, President of Cornerstone Investment Group and President of Black Pearl Resources. He is currently Vice President of the RH Group located in Pikeville, Kentucky.


Sandi Curd

Community Builder

Sandi Curd is the Promise Zone Coordinator, a position created when Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation was named the first rural Promise Zone in America. Curd is a Whitley County farmer and has 25 years of experience in the field of health care. She is also a consultant to Leadership Tri-County and a former president of the Whitley County Farmers’ Market board of directors. Curd holds a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from the University of Kentucky, a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota and is a doctoral candidate for Ph.D. in leadership through the University of the Cumberlands.


Tina Brouwer

Photographer, Outdoor Enthusiast

Tina LaDeur Brouwer is Executive Director of Red Oaks Forest School, a non-profit organization focused on nature immersion as a way to increase compassion, community, exploration and wonder to the children of central and eastern Kentucky. Her work as a professional photographer, documenting the moments in between, has been recognized through many publications and awards. She continues to use photography to document the rewildling of the American child. She also holds a bachelor's degree in natural resource conservation and management and a master's degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Kentucky. She currently co-owns a farm to table cafe in the Red River Gorge continuing her efforts to create opportunities and promote the beautiful and diverse Appalachian landscape and its many good people, farmers and artisans.


Xiao-Yin Chen

Academic, First-Generation Appalachian

Xiao-Yin (“Yin”) Chen is a first-generation Chinese American woman from Appalachian Kentucky. Her mother immigrated to the United States at seventeen and later found herself in Harlan, Kentucky opening a small Chinese restaurant. She obtained a full ride to the University of Kentucky, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is committed to serving her hometown as much as possible and is currently a grant-writer for the Harlan County and Union College Boys & Girls’ Club. She is currently enrolled in a master’s program for educational psychology at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on students’ beliefs in education and how they influence learning.



Luke Glaser


Brent Hutchinson


Crystal Kinser


Stacy Fugate


Will Nash

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Suzie Razmus


This independent TEDx event is operated under license from TED.
More info about the TEDx program can be found here.