This year, we’re excited to introduce a new feature presentation at the festival. Think Different will recognize a carefully curated selection of rising stars who have important stories to tell. Hear what they’re doing today that’s shaping the future of food, farm, and gardening.
Although their particular narratives differ, these go-getters share common bonds. We celebrate their innovation, drive and commitment to making the world a better place to live.
Meet our 2019 inaugural presenter: Ms. Haile Thomas, joined in conversation by Monticello’s Director of African American History and Getting Word Oral History Project, Niya Bates.
Health & Food Activist
Haile Thomas has something to say. In fact, she has a lot to say, and what she says is changing the lives of young people across America.
Thomas is 18 years old, an international speaker, health activist, vegan food & lifestyle influencer, the youngest Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach in the United States, and the CEO of the non-profit HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth). Ms. Thomas founded HAPPY at 12 years old to address the need for free plant-based nutrition and culinary education.
Thomas has personally engaged over 35,000 kids since beginning her activism in 2010. She was inspired to pursue this passion after her family successfully reversed her father’s type-2 diabetes with healthy eating and lifestyle choices, and upon learning that kids were also increasingly being diagnosed with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. All of her programs, projects, and initiatives, are geared towards engaging, educating, motivating and empowering young people to make healthy lifestyle choices to live their best life. To that end, Thomas hosted the podcast “Girl Empowered”, interviewing inspiring and empowered women, therefore fulfilling her mission to broadcast female voices of empowerment.
Beginning at 12 years old, Ms. Thomas worked for two years as the Jr. Chef Advisor for Hyatt Hotel’s “For Kids – By Kids” Menu. Her kids’ recipes were served at all Hyatt Resorts in North America and the Caribbean. She was one of the first eight young chefs featured on season one of Rachael vs. Guy Kids-Cook-Off, and on Cupcake Wars Kids, both airing on Food Network.
Thomas has been featured by NowThis, BuzzFeed, MTV, CNN, The HARRY Show, the Today Show, Dr. Oz, Home and Family Show, and The Rachael Ray Show. She has been highlighted in several major publications including O Magazine, Teen Vogue, and YES Magazine, and was the first teen featured on the cover of Experience Life Magazine.
In 2020, Thomas will release her first book.
This eighteen-year old CEO is taking over the world, teaching all of us to THINK DIFFERENT.
Director of African American History, Monticello
Niya Bates is Director of African American History and Getting Word Oral History Project in the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. She has been with Monticello since 2016. Started in 1993, Getting Word is a growing archive of over 200 oral histories of people descended from slaves at Monticello. Niya works to engage local and national audiences in dialogue about Monticello, slavery and its enduring legacies, and race. She earned a B.A. in African and African American Studies and an M.A. in Architectural History and Historic Preservation – both from the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on enslaved families at Monticello, African American life in the Reconstruction Era in Virginia, and rural cultural preservation. She has published articles in Arris: Journal of the Southeast Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.