John S. Blake’s middle initial stands for survivor. A National Poetry Slam finalist and Pushcart Prize nominee, John was an addict on the brink of overdose when a poem saved his life. Instead of following his family into an abyss of chemical dependency, violence, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Cancer and death; John stopped using and started writing. John has toured nationally sharing his story through lectures, workshops, and spoken-word performances in juvenile detention centers, universities, libraries, schools, coffee houses, and rehab centers. As co-curator of Slam Richmond Reading Series on the south side of Richmond, John hopes to convince educators to include poetry and spoken word in curricula for all ages... Read More t

Ivy Ross is a thoroughbred creator. Her careers in executive roles with Mattel and Calvin Klein as well as an internationally acclaimed artist have set her apart and made her a leader in the creative field. Richmond can look forward to the high-profile experience and perspective she will bring onstage... Read More t

Noah Kim is a 15-year old sophomore at Maggie Walker Governor’s school who is passionate about the ongoing debate among politicians on education reform. He is confident that, as a student, he is in a better position to address education reform than most politicians “who haven’t been in school for a very long time.” Noah is an advocate for teacher excellence, citing the motivational power of a specific chemistry teacher who transformed his view of the subject. If our country’s education system is going to improve, Noah asserts, it won’t be through standardized test scores or nationally mandated benchmarks; it will be through good teaching.
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