A senior at Plano Senior High School, Varsha Appaji is active on the debate team. In 2016, Varsha and the team received the International Public Policy Forum World Champion title. Varsha receives advanced training in South Indian classical music (Carnatic) under the guidance of Krishna Parthasarathy, from whom she studies the ancient compositions and improvisational aspects of this art form. A dancer and singer, she has performed throughout Texas and nationally at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival as part of the “Sustaining Sampradaya” program, the Summer Soiree at the Quinn Estate in Rhode Island, and the Basically Beethoven Festival at Dallas City Performance Hall. In 2015, Varsha was one of 15 recipients out of over 500 applicants of the prestigious Anthony Quinn Foundation Arts Scholarship. In addition to music, Varsha delights in the visual arts. She received a Scholastic Silver Key award and the Sam Johnson Congressional Arts award for her paintings.
Dr. Jen Hartman is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of combined training and experience. After training and working in many different settings, she launched Genuine Life Psychology & Wellness, a diversity-affirmative psychology practice where she provides psychotherapy, wellness classes and workshops designed to help people achieve whole-person well-being. Dr. Hartman is a registered yoga teacher and enjoys teaching mindful yoga. In her spare time, you can often find her riding her bike, practicing yoga, meditating, spending time with her family (including two awesome cats), enjoying nature and trying not to overindulge her sweet tooth.
Mary Jacobs is producer of Plano Podcast and a freelance writer who covers health and fitness, spirituality and issues relating to older adults. She writes regularly for The Dallas Morning News, The Silver Century, Religion News Service and other publications. Her work has been honored by the Religion Communicators Council, the Associated Church Press and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. See Mary’s work online at PlanoPodcast.com and MaryJacobs.com.
As Principal of Glass House Strategy, Vinny Minchillo worked with major brands including JCPenney, American Airlines, Dallas Cowboys, Subaru and Nationwide Insurance. He has created ads at all levels of elective politics including work for four Presidential campaigns.
His work was featured on The Colbert Report, lampooned by Bill Maher, and covered by the Washington Post, Ad Age, NPR, Time, Fox News, CNN and Texas Monthly. He was yelled at by a Boston Globe reporter and has been called “foolish” by the official Chinese news agency. Vinny is a former stand-up comic, winning “Wheel of Fortune” contestant, lawnmower racer and author of the comic novel “Spare Me.”
A senior at St. Mark’s School of Texas, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities selected Gopal Raman as one of five National Student Poets, the nation’s highest honor for young poets presenting original work. As a literary ambassador to the Southwest, he spread his love of poetry through workshops, readings and other events. In addition to writing poetry, Gopal is the creative director for his high school newspaper, captain of the varsity tennis team and chair of the school’s Community Service Board.
His career enabled him to work on global issues in over 25 countries spanning six continents – taking him from the banks of Lake Titicaca in rural Puno, Peru to a commercial set with Jackie Chan and Spike (a 6,000-pound live rhinoceros).
Zach lost his mom, Michele, to pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2014, after an extremely courageous four-month battle. He prides himself on being the ultimate momma’s boy and was one of his mom’s primary caregivers. Zach and his brother Bradley launched CancerQ – dedicated to building true technology resources for patients and caregivers, designed by patients and caregivers. Their hope is no family has to experience what theirs did.