x = independently organized TED event

Theme: GRIT

This event occurred on
June 5, 2021
Gainesville, Florida
United States

The mission of TEDxGainesville GRIT 2021 is to highlight local individuals and stories to open minds and transform the Greater Gainesville community. A central goal of this year’s event is to build bridges among our diverse community, uniting our diverse sectors and populations on the basis of common ground and shared experiences. Our panel of speakers and performers embody the spirit of perseverance, personify mental and physical toughness, and inspire our audience. By unifying our community’s stakeholders in determination and resolve, we seek to strengthen the bonds that will allow our community to thrive and continue to grow.

20 N Main St
Gainesville, Florida, 32601
United States
Event type:
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Speakers may not be confirmed. Check event website for more information.

Beth Ruffin

Culture Consultant & Career Coach
Committed to making our world more inclusive, Beth left a 20-year career in Financial Services to open The Everyday Inclusionist, a boutique consulting firm, where she and her team teach leaders how to make inclusion a daily practice. She is the host of “At the Table,” a weekly podcast about elevating the voices of the underrepresented and the author of two books: Get Up, which details her journey to self-acceptance, and You Belong Here, which explores the topic of Self Inclusion. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and the Southern Wesleyan University MBA program, Beth has taken coursework at the Harvard Kennedy School and serves as the Vice-Chair of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network of South Carolina Board of Directors. Beth believes that everyone has a purpose and has the power within them to impact lives. She is mom to one daughter and in her spare time likes to travel throughout small town America.

Farrah Smith

Activist, Writer, Life Coach and Mindful Entrepreneur
Farrah has spent a decade working for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, one of the top ocean conservation organizations in the world. Farrah received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from UCLA and is a proud alumnus of Brendon Burchard's world-renowned High-Performance Coaching Academy. She is also a certified Life Coach and CIJ Insight for Life Instructor. Farrah regularly contributes to as a member of the Entrepreneur Leadership Network, and her advice on personal and professional development has also been featured on Forbes. She founded Farrah Smith Coaching as part of her passion and commitment to empowering teens and young adults in leading happier, more intentional, productive, and purposeful lives. Farrah was named one of the Top 10 Life Coaches That Can Elevate Your Life in 2021 by Yahoo Finance.

La'Kendra Garrison

Host, TEDxGainesville
La’Kendra was born and raised in Gainesville, FL. She has a master’s degree in public relations from Full Sail University. La’Kendra has worked more than 15 years in Corporate America with several years of leadership experience, as well as over a decade of communications work in the religious and non-profit sector. In 2017, La’Kendra begin her entrepreneurial journey and launched Integrity Orchid Consulting, LLC, an event management company. During the global pandemic in 2020, La’Kendra launched to assist with business planning, strategic communications, and creative projects. In her spare time, La’Kendra loves working at her church and volunteering. She currently holds board positions with Dream on Purpose and the University of Florida’s Association of Black Alumni. La’Kendra also serves as an ambassador for Gainesville Black Professionals. La’Kendra is the mother to one emerging adult son, Jai’Lyn, who is looking forward to his 2021 high school graduation.

Mary Ingram

Youth Advocate and Community Organizer
Mary's mission is to empower youth to make a difference in their community & their world. As a former juvenile diversion officer, some of her greatest teachers were the young people she served. With her guidance, these teens took the lead and created the Merrick County Youth Council. Since 2002, this group has actively served their community. In 2004, her team of young leaders were invited to address the first Nebraska juvenile justice conference. She partnered with an inmate who was serving 25 years to life in a Nebraska correctional facility to illustrate her first book, The Fallen, to share a message of redemption. Since its publication in 2012, the book has been shared with prisons all across the US and around the world. Her message continues to resonate with a growing audience. She has traveled across Nebraska meeting with law enforcement and leadership groups to share her knowledge about the power of community service.

Mary Wilde

Integrative Pediatrician
Dr. Wilde utilizes her training in mind-body medicine to help kids with anxiety and ADHD thrive. In addition to writing the occasional prescription, she can routinely be found at her whiteboard drawing out colorful explanations, on the floor demonstrating yoga, or scrawling on a notepad while brainstorming strategic plans with parents. Dr. Wilde is the creator of the “Overcoming Childhood Anxiety” online course for kids and teens and the founder of “Compassion Parenting,” an online membership community for deep-thinking, dedicated parents. She’s a podcaster, author, and frequent contributor to various online platforms. As host of the weekly "Compassion Parenting Podcast," Dr. Wilde explores the nuances of how to love children wisely and well. Her book, “Faithful Nurturing: Mothering from the Heart to the Heart,” captures her own day-to-day experiences finding strength, balance, connection, purpose, and joy as a mother. She and her husband Jason are the parents of 8 wonderful sons.

Michael Presley Bobbitt

Southern Playwright
Bobbitt is most known for his off-Broadway plays Sunset Village and Florida Man, and regional plays Trailer Park Elegy and Cedar Key. His work is often described as dramedy, incorporating outlandish comedy as a way of tackling heavy human issues in a way that rejects instructive moralizing. His plays are deeply rooted in places, the settings often functioning as de facto characters in the story. A commercial real estate appraiser by trade, Bobbitt believes in live theater as the last best defense against the technological degradation of human culture. He can be found more often than not tending a clam lease on his bird dog boat, the Judy Elaine, or chasing trout and redfish around the Wacassassa Bay with his son Liam.

Sara Mellas

Multi-Disciplinary Artist and Serial Hobbyist
Sara holds advanced degrees in music history, opera, and education, and worked professionally as a conductor, singer, and music teacher for many years. Sara currently works as a visual stylist specializing in food and florals, and develops hundreds of original recipes each year for a variety of brands. She is the author of three best-selling cookbooks: The Easy Baked Donut Cookbook, The One-Pot Casserole Cookbook, and Quick & Easy Breakfast Cookbook. In 2018, she won the Kellogg’s Holiday Baking Championship in New York City, and in 2015, she presented her paper “The Value of Music Education in the 21st Century: A Young Person’s Perspective on Inspiring Young People” at the International Kodály Symposium in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sara is the co-host of Emotionally Available: a Podcast. She’s a competitive horseback rider, NPC bikini competitor, aspiring astrologer, and stand-up comedy enthusiast.

Shamrock McShane

Teacher, Actor & Writer
Combining 30 years of service as a public-school teacher with a passion for the arts, Shamrock McShane is the author of Hall of Fools, a revealing look at education in America, and an acclaimed actor, winner of the Best Supporting Actor award at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, his range stretching from Shakespeare to Mamet. He stars in the Tom Miller film The Seven Sides of Shakespeare.

Tom Miller

Tom Miller is a playwright, screenwriter, performance artist, musician, director, sound designer, actor, painter, and the host of the longest running continuous live variety show in America, The Tom Miller Show. Mr. Miller holds a BA in Theatre from the University of Florida and an MFA in Screenwriting in the David Lynch MFA Screenwriter's Program at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Mr. Miller enjoys lobster, martinis, and hosting The Reverend Angeldust's Tabernacle of Hedonism in Gainesville, Florida - the Known Center of the Universe.

Tomiqua Perry

Artist, Entrepreneur and Advocate
Tomiqua is an advocate for the artist and entrepreneur, as well as one herself. Her passions are poetry and visual art, written and verbal expression are her primary creative outlets. She has spent many years helping others bring their vision to light and takes pride in her ability to connect people with the resources they need to succeed. In recent years she has worked within the nonprofit sector during election season, during which time she learned of a void that needs to be filled by allowing people to have open and honest discussions about cultural differences that have created a serious divide over time. This realization led to the creation of I Am Miq!, a brand housing three communication platforms. Curating opportunities for people to share and learn from others' experiences regarding racial tensions, bigotry, white supremacy, police brutality, sexism and many other issues that cause divide amongst the human race has been her most gratifying and fulfilling work thus far.

Wes Smith

Composer and Educator
Wes has advanced degrees in music composition and arranging. As a teacher of music performance, theory, and history courses at the high school and college level in Florida and Massachusetts his goal is creating thoughtful, well-trained, independent musicians and thinkers. He has been involved with musical theater as a composer, conductor, director, and orchestrator for nearly two decades through productions ranging from public school theater up through Broadway-bound productions. He has co-authored three musicals and written five as the sole author. He specializes in original shows not adapted from existing sources that address contemporary concerns through complex musical and storytelling techniques. When he is not officially teaching, Wes can be found either enjoying Star Trek, Steely Dan, and Stephen Sondheim with his family or telling strangers what is wonderful and groundbreaking about all three.

Winter Wheeler

Senior Attorney and Expert Mediator
Winter is a former top civil litigator who has made her niche as an expert mediator. She is sought out for her unique, compassionate, and successful style handling complex matters that involve a diverse range of cultures, including Spanish speaking clients. Most recently, Winter was a senior attorney at a prominent law firm, and it’s this extensive body of experience she brings into her current mediation practice that makes her work stand out. A graduate of Georgetown University and Tulane Law School, Winter has always combined her passions for culture, diplomacy, and the law. Winter is the creator of The Four Cornerstones of Mediation™, which she introduced to the world in her first TEDx talk in March 2021. She is co-author of the bestselling book, #Networked. She is also creator and host of The Mediate Now™ podcast.

Organizing team


Gainesville, FL, United States


Gainesville, FL, United States
  • Claudia Cometa
    Team member
  • Elyce Gronseth
  • Jennifer Phelps
  • Kevin Spellicy
  • Mike Langieri