Meet Our 2019 Speakers!
Shyna Ballal is a sophomore at Saint Francis High School. She was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis at the age of 9, inspiring her to be an advocate and honoree for the Arthritis Foundation. She is passionate about raising funds and awareness and ensuring that the initiatives that help the arthritis community get passed as laws by legislators. At school, Shyna is on student council and the board of the medical club. She loves listening to and composing music on her guitar and writing the lyrics to her songs, which are available on iTunes and Spotify. She is an avid audiovisual designer and loves creating and producing videos. Through her talk, she wants to continue to create awareness and make a difference with arthritis advocacy.
Yatin Bhat is a junior at Saint Francis High School. He enjoys playing guitar, longboarding, and hanging out with friends. Additionally, he loves participating in Model United Nations outside of school as well as teaching students about MUN at his job. His sense of humour and outgoing personality constantly push him to meet new people and try new things. Inspired by his journey with OCD, he’s excited to talk and share his thoughts with others to help people think of new ways to deal with anxiety and find a balance between work and having fun.
Serena Bujtor is a junior at Saint Francis High School. She lives in the wonderful town of San Carlos and her favorite part of the day is driving 280 to school in the morning. Because of her own experience with mental illness, she is grateful for the chance to raise awareness on mental health through speaking at SF Talks, for her family and friends who have supported her on her journey, and especially for those who encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone to give a talk. At school, she participates in the swim team, and she has dabbled in water polo and wrestling in the previous years. When she is not at school or in the pool, she is probably hanging out with friends or family, taking a nap, or watching her favorite shows. Her plans for the future include fighting stigma around mental health and helping others as much as she can.
Mia Cheng is a sophomore at Saint Francis High School. She first became interested in self-defense during grade school while learning taekwondo but has more recently been taking both physical and educational self-defense classes. At school, she is a junior-varsity debater and a board member of Mindframes. She also is an active member of Girls Who Code, the Math Team, and In The Margins, and during track season, Mia throws discus and shot put. In her free time, she loves watching movies.
Rachel Clark is a junior at Saint Francis High School. She has spent a lot of time overcoming and working through her learning disabilities and hopes to share her experience and what she has learned. In her free time she plays water polo, swims on the swim team, and enjoys creative writing. She is excited to see how people’s perspectives change after her talk and hopes to shed light on a critical issue.
Francesca Federighi is a senior at Saint Francis High School. An assignment in her sophomore religion class unintentionally caused her to start keeping a journal, a habit which has had a positive impact on her life. At school, she enjoys participating in Mock Trial, Speech, and tutoring people in Spanish through CSF. In her free time, Francesca enjoys finding and reading good books about sociology and social psychology, (though she isn’t opposed to fiction either), getting lost in an endless web of Wikipedia pages, writing (beyond her journal), and taking walks with her dog. By sharing her story of how she started journaling and has benefited immensely as a result, she hopes that others will be willing to give it a try.
Kathryn Forrest is a junior at Saint Francis High School. In her free time, she enjoys running track, playing field hockey, doing Sudoku, and spending time with her friends and family. Her dad inspired her love of both running and hiking, and they now love to go on long hikes together. The pair plans to embark on several backpacking trips together later this year, including one through the Santa Cruz mountains and another on the John Muir Trail near Yosemite. Kathryn hopes to one day hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico to Canada. Through her talk, she hopes to inspire others to pursue hiking to broaden their perspectives on life and to find their own passion.
Sheena Holt is a senior at Saint Francis High School. The daughter of a South African immigrant, she is an advocate for open dialogue about race and privilege, which culminates in her work in Saint Francis’s In the Margins Club. In her free time, she writes, reads, plays guitar, attends local open mics, eats lots of breakfast foods, and watches Coen Brothers movies. In the future, she plans to study creative writing and political science and become a writer and English professor.
Madison Horn is a senior at Saint Francis High School. She is passionate about sharing her journey of overcoming sexual assault and teaching others how to prevent it from happening. She is a proud member of Rally Board and treasures spreading school spirit. She loves painting and ceramics and giving people her art as presents. Madison enjoys going to the beach and hanging out with friends. If she isn’t at school, the beach, with friends or at work, she is likely taking a nap or binge-watching whatever is new and exciting on Netflix. In the future, she wants to be a doctor and travel all around the world seeking the best relaxation destinations.
Juliette Jorgenson is a junior at Saint Francis High School. She enjoys surfing, singing, writing music, playing piano and guitar, running, traveling and making vegan food. Her years of living minutes from the ocean have shaped her passions and knowledge of the deep blue. Through her talk, she hopes to inspire you to consider the consequences before throwing away a plastic bottle.
Nick Juran is a senior at Saint Francis High School. He is excited to both build on his passion for public speaking as well as share his experiences of recovering from a major knee injury. Nick is extremely involved in athletics at Saint Francis and will be playing football at a Division One university next year. In addition to public speaking and playing sports, Nick is interested in fitness, the social sciences, and coaching, as well as being an avid foodie and a Marvel super-fan.
Leo Lappalainen Zhao
Leo Lappalainen Zhao is a junior at Saint Francis High School. He comes from a diverse background, being born in Sweden to a Chinese father and Finnish mother. After living in a variety of places, including Sweden, China, and Saudi Arabia, Leo wanted to address the importance of forming diverse perspectives and relationships to have a more open mindset and bring to life the different regions in the world. After seeing what often amounted to misrepresentative and one-sided media coverage of regions like Saudi Arabia and more specifically the people there, Leo considered his experiences living in these places to be even more important to build real characterizations of these people and places. Leo’s hobbies include running cross country and track and field at Saint Francis. Through his talk, he hopes that his audience may understand the importance of forming relationships with those around you to formulate more comprehensive opinions about the various regions and cultures around the globe.
Emma McEvoy is a senior at Saint Francis High School. She is constantly inspired by the incredible people around her and decided to give this talk after watching the documentary Miss Representation on Netflix. She loves spontaneous outdoor adventures, including beach road trips and hikes, hanging out with friends, going to flea markets, and eating ramen. At school, she enjoys tutoring underclassmen, swimming in the pool, and making campus a better place with her bright smile and overabundance of optimism. In the future, she would like to pursue public advocacy and policy work as a lawyer or become an educator.
Diego Selvas-Cano is a senior at Saint Francis High School. He is a passionate member of his school’s Lancer community through programs like Yearbook, College Ambassadors, and Saint Francis Family Club. The son of immigrants and the first person in his family to be born in the United States, Diego was born into a world of two cultures. In his talk, he explores the subject of identity and shares his experiences and conflicts, hoping that it will resonate in the hearts of others who experience similar struggles. The path to finding your identity, though a personal quest, is not one that has to be faced entirely alone.