NSBA Advocacy Institute - January 28-30, 2024


Inspiring Hope Through the Power of Commitment and Positivity

Gian Paul Gonzalez
Gian Paul Gonzalez
Founder & Director of Hope + Future Inc.

Gian Paul Gonzalez is widely recognized for inspiring the 2011 New York Giants to their Super Bowl victory with his famous “All In” speech. He has been featured on ESPN and had notable appearances on Fox News and CNN.

His inspirational talks have made him an internationally renowned speaker for the NBA, NFL, English Premiere League, and MLS, as well as Fortune 500 corporations.

Gonzalez is a former NCAA First Team All-American forward for New Jersey’s Montclair State University, where he scored nearly 1,400 points in his three-year career. He played in the NBA Summer League and was offered professional basketball contracts, yet he turned them down to continue his work with at-risk youth.

He is the founder and executive director of Hope + Future Inc., an organization dedicated to using athletics and physical fitness to share a message of hope and striving for excellence in inner-city public schools and juvenile jails.

Signature Speakers

A Catalyst for Change: Advocating for the Improvement of Reading Outcomes for All Students

Kymyona Burk, Ed.D.

Kymyona Burk, Ed.D.
Senior Policy Fellow, Early Literacy 
Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd)

Kymyona Burk is a Senior Policy Fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). In this role, she supports states pursuing a comprehensive approach to K-3 reading policy by assisting state leaders in building new or improving existing K-3 reading policies, with a heavy focus on supporting successful policy implementation. Kymyona most recently served in Mississippi as the Executive Director for the Jackson Public School District’s Office of Teaching and Learning, leading all aspects of the district’s instructional programming. Previously, she was the State Literacy Director at the Mississippi Department of Education, where she led the implementation of Mississippi’s Literacy-Based Promotion Act. Kymyona began her career as an elementary reading teacher; she also taught middle and high school English. At Jackson State University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, a Master of Arts in Teaching English, a Master of Science in Education Administration and Supervision, and a Doctor of Education in Early Childhood Education.

Understanding How Different Kinds of Minds Think Differently

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin
Distinguished Professor of Animal Science
Colorado State University

Temple Grandin is a Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She has designed livestock handling facilities used by companies around the world. Temple also has been instrumental in implementing animal welfare auditing programs used by McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Whole Foods, and other corporations. She has appeared on numerous TV shows, such as “20/20” and “Prime Time.” She is the author of several books, including Thinking in Pictures, Livestock Handling and Transport, and The Autistic Brain. Her books Animals in Translation and Visual Thinking have been on the New York Times Bestseller List. Temple was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in September 2017. In 2022, she was named a Colorado State University Distinguished Professor, and in 2023, she was inducted into the Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame.

Mapping Polarization in K-12 Education: Deep Division and Common Ground

Lucas Bernays Held

Lucas Bernays Held
Independent Strategic Communications Consultant and former Vice President, Communications, The Wallace Foundation

Lucas Bernays Held is an independent, strategic communications consultant with more than three decades of experience leading communication teams at non-profits with national reach, including Connecticut College, Barnard College of Columbia University, and The Wallace Foundation, one of the nation’s 100 largest charitable foundations.

In 2023, after leaving Wallace following a 21-year stint, most recently as vice president for communications, he formed Lucas Bernays Held and Associates. Its goal is to fill a need for research-based communications counsel in a context marked by increasing political polarization and diminished trust in institutions. The firm’s analysis and recommendations are informed by relevant social science research in persuasion, experimental political science, and social marketing.

At Wallace, Held led a branding and repositioning initiative based on market research that successfully positioned the foundation as a source of credible, useful knowledge and funding in K-12 education, afterschool programming, and the arts. Coupled with a four-pronged communications strategy, the effort yielded measurable progress, including increased downloads of knowledge products from 25,000 to more than 500,000 annually. At Barnard, he led the crafting of the college's first strategic plan in decades.

Held's experience encompasses communications strategy, public policy, market research, branding, and crisis communications. He earned a certificate in marketing management from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and a B.A. in English from Haverford College. He speaks and writes regularly on strategic communications, including for the International Public Relations Association, the American Alliance of Museums, and the Yale Philanthropy Conference. He is a member of the board of the Museum of Public Relations.

Public Education Leadership: Easing Divisions & Solving Problems Through Dignity

Tami Pyfer

Tami Pyfer
UNITE Chief of Staff and Co-creator of the Dignity Index

Tami Pyfer is the Chief of Staff and VP External for UNITE — a national organization seeking to ease division across political and cultural differences. Tami is also the co-creator of the Dignity Index, an eight-point scale for measuring the dignity or contempt in the language we use with each other when we disagree.

Before her work with UNITE, Tami served for seven years as the Education Policy Advisor to former Utah Governor Gary Herbert, where she was involved in state-level policy development, coalition building, and stakeholder engagement. She held local and state elected offices for 12 years in Utah: eight years on the Logan City Council and four years on the Utah State Board of Education. Tami’s professional training is in Special Education. Before her appointment to serve on the Governor's executive team, she taught at Utah State University, preparing teachers to work with students with disabilities.

Tami and her husband Aaron are the parents of five children and the grandparents of 15. They live in the Salt Lake Valley.