Michigan 2017

Shawn Furey

Shawn Furey is a heroism educator who created an educational program that teaches people to unlock their innate heroic potential and to create a story-worthy life. Currently, Shawn works full-time as a Drug & Alcohol Counselor with people in recovery from opioid addiction and during his free time he runs a ‘hero support network’ for people who have a desire to improve their world.

Shawn is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and is working on a masters degree in educational psychology.

Shawn has self-published 5 e-books and has created over 250 YouTube videos, on how to be an ordinary hero every day.

Jimmy Tomczak

Jimmy Tomczak lives to inspire. As inventor, author, and speaker, Jimmy serves doers who want to do more. 

Jimmy founded Wet Star to help people with big ideas take massive action now. He regularly consults with bold brands, startups, and top companies in the marketing, strategy, and innovation space to help them grow.

Jimmy’s personally been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, and CNN, as well as earning press for clients in Forbes, Inc, Yahoo, and more.

Jimmy is a Crain's Detroit Business 20 in their 20's honoree and Elks National Foundation Alum of the Year. He was selected to appear and taped for an episode of Shark Tank for his first invention.

His new book, "Lakeside and Tide: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life Now", hit top 100 on Amazon Kindle and #1 in its category. He’s given away over 5,000 digital copies and shared his story with audiences around the world. His recent talks focus on teaching how anyone can self-actualize in the present.

Thomas Francine

Are people kind or selfish? Thomas Francine will discuss kindness he's experienced as a 26,000-mile hitchhiker, kindness other travelers have experienced, kindness in the United States, kindness around the world, kindness in biology, kindness in evolution, and how you can work with kindness yourself.

Thomas hitchhiked 26,000 miles through 34 states of the U.S. and 15 countries. The extreme hospitality he encountered everywhere he went led him on a journey into the topic of kindness. Thomas is a hospice volunteer and a volunteer advocate. He also teaches middle school and produces documentaries in New Jersey. And he still hitchhikes when he has the time.

Jennifer Miller

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It all started with a little one-year bike ride across Europe and North Africa. In 2008 Jenn Sutherland-Miller set off, with her husband and four children, on what would develop into a decade-long, open-ended world tour encompassing six continents and over forty countries. They've journeyed across Europe and North Africa on bicycles, the length and breadth of North and Central America, gone deep instead of wide in Guatemala, backpacked across the mountains and rivers of Southeast Asia, Borneo and Indonesia, and they’ve thoroughly road tripped Australia and New Zealand. The girls dove into the muddy Amazon and the majestic sacred valley in Peru, while the guys sailed their boat from Canada to the Bahamas and back over nine months. Those are just their family adventures. As a strong advocate for solo female travel, Jenn has walked a thousand kilometers across France and Spain, traversed the length of the Egyptian Nile, slurped ramen in Narita, chicken bussed Central America, saved the life of a drowning man in laguna Apoyo, and crashed a motorbike in Nicaragua. She’s traveled with newborns through teens whom she worldschooled from day one clear to college. 

An early adopter of the digital nomad movement, Jenn has spent her career working at the intersection of education and adventure. With a degree in education, she works with families to design custom worldschooling programs and, very selectively, as a life coach. She is the Editor for two travel-related publications, has helped design the best backpack for urban travel, and is the co-founder of the Travel Access Project, a non-profit dedicated to getting a Gap Year on every resume by expanding opportunity through grants and educational resources. She volunteers her time with Konojel, an organization dedicated to solving the root causes of malnutrition in Guatemala, and is the director of the board of the Genesis Community for the Arts, providing arts education to children in Guatemala and Honduras. Together with her friend Keri, she wrote the book Bottles to Backpacks: The Gypsy Mama's Guide to REAL Travel With Kids a cradle to college primer on every aspect of child-life on the road for families who want more than a two-week vacation with their children. She also speaks and writes widely on transformative travel, education, and living life on your terms.

For fun, Jenn climbs volcanos, gets muddy in rainforests, hikes to hidden waterfalls, SCUBA dives spectacular reefs, swing dances in the kitchen, swings from aerial silks, reads incessantly, bakes bread, creates community for lonely people, travels as much as she possibly can, with and without her family, and once rode off into the sunset with an Arab horseman. Jenn has bet all of her chips on transformative travel as the best way to change the world, through developing understanding, compassion, and courage. To that end she leads trips for women to developing countries, advocates tirelessly for data-driven decision-making over a life ruled by fear, and seeks to inspire and empower women, specifically, to live lives of heroic proportions, at home and abroad.

Justin Cessante

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Justin Cessante was born and raised on the Westside of Detroit. Justin is a 1999 graduate of Detroit Catholic Central. At DCC he was captain of the 1997/1998 Back to Back State Championship football team and ran track. He continued his career at Grand Valley State University and was on the 2002 National Championship football team. He graduated with a bachelor degree in 2004. Justin was a co – founder of HYPE (Helping Youth Progress & Excel) Athletics Community at the age of 21. HYPE is a non – profit that services the community through education, social awareness and athletics. In 2012 Justin received a Civic Leadership Award for his community service from the Twilight Foundation. Justin is the founder of the Legacy Football Organization and currently is the National Director of Football for the Legacy Organization. He also services as the Executive Director for the L.E.A.D. Foundation, a non – profit associated with Legacy. Justin serves on the Volunteer of America Board of Directors as well as the Defensive Coordinator for the varsity football team at Detroit CC. His definition of success is the positive impact people have on others through their work and efforts. His favorite quote is, “God’s gift to you is your talent, your Gift to God is what you do with it.”

Stephanie Preston

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Stephanie D. Preston is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan. She has an MA and PhD in behavioral neuroscience from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied mechanisms of decision making in food-storing animals. Subsequent to this, she held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, where she used functional neuroimaging, psychophysiology, and behavioral research to understand the role of emotions on decision making.

Dr. Preston’s research is highly interdisciplinary, looking across model systems and levels of analysis with a variety of tools to investigate evolved, proximate mechanisms for complex behaviors. One line of her research looks at the mechanisms of empathy and altruism, focusing on perception-action mechanisms for feeling others’ state and the impact of evolved caregiving mechanisms on altruism. Another line of work examines mechanisms for making decisions about
resources, particularly how people decide to acquire and discard material goods, including issues of consumption, consumerism, compulsive hoarding and proenvironmental behavior. All research aims to develop a model of the ultimate and proximate mechanism for complex human behaviors grounded in research from comparative and biological models in animals.

Mark Howell


As a proud father and husband of a beautiful family of 5, Mark Howell’s passion in life is making a positive impact on other people’s lives in any way possible.  In October of 2012, at age 30 and just two short weeks following the birth of his first born son, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma, and given weeks to live...

Fast forward almost 5 years now and Mark’s health is not only stable, but this Brighton, MI native is using his second chance at life in hopes of aiding and inspiring others to overcome their own life-altering circumstances and make the most of every waking moment on earth. Mark’s profession includes running a local senior homecare provider, coaching soccer for various teams and programs, and founding/running a nonprofit to aid others in time of life-altering circumstance, all while managing life at home as a dad and husband.