Recently, several Volunteer Maryland Coordinators (VMCs) and I attended the TEDxBaltimore 2014 series titled “Pioneer! O Pioneer!” The premise of the event was that “We celebrate those who harbor vulnerability. We seek those who carry the creative flame. We yearn for those who call deep on their courage to march, impatient, and full of action. Pioneers! And we honor the cause that there is more to live, to do, to experience, and to discover than what is known today.” The day was filled with speakers from all walks of life who shared with us their stories of success in pioneering for causes and organizations that draw their passions. As I sat listening to the speakers I really began to understand that anyone, anywhere has the power to be a pioneer.
One of the first speakers I had the privilege of hearing was in fact a member of the non hearing community. Derek Braun, professor and geneticist at Galludet University, is one of several pioneers working on Project CASL. The CASL Project is a life streaming platform that affords attendees at conferences and events the opportunity to view a live stream of speakers without having to modify or change aspects of the conference. This innovative way of reaching the deaf community is a noble cause and drew my interest not just because of the work Mr. Braun is doing but also because of the passion he has to help others in his community. Braun’s innovation and entrepreneurial spirit is a true testament to his dedication and commitment as a pioneer.
Another pioneer who really grabbed my interest that day was Nick Cienski, Under Armour Senior Director of Innovation as well as the founder of Mission 14, whose primary mission is the combating of human trafficking. Now you may know of the work that Mr. Cienski does at Under Armour, but what you may not know is that he is the man who founded Mission 14 and is an accomplished mountaineer who is turning his passion for the sport into an awareness and fundraising campaign for the Mission 14 organization. In one year, he will attempt to summit six of the world’s highest peaks and while doing so will use the media coverage and publicity to raise much needed awareness about the human trafficking epidemic that is plaguing the world.
Each of these men are out in the world making a difference and pioneering for change and both are using somewhat unconventional means to do so. That in itself really speaks to the pioneering spirit that TEDxBaltimore was speaking of when it mentioned the creative flame and the action oriented person who fosters change and innovation. Both Mr. Braun and Mr. Cienski saw a need for something and met that need by being true to their passions and themselves and I find that truly inspiring.