Sonoma’s Calvin Sanders, who is a senior at Justin-Siena High School in Napa, beat out almost 80 area students to win the opportunity to speak at this year’s TEDxNapaValley event on Sunday, March 30, at the Napa Valley College Performing Arts Center.

Napa High School, Sonoma Valley High School and Justin-Siena each narrowed their overall entrants to select their two best students to compete in the regional TEDxNapaValley Student Speak Off earlier this month. Each student presented their three- to six-minute multi-media talk centered on this year’s theme “Going Against the Grain-Embracing the Unconventional” to the TEDxNapaValley board who selected the final winner.

“Every student did an amazing job and they made our choice difficult,” said Barbara Sabbadini, TEDxNapaValley education outreach director. Other student finalists competing included AJ Collins of Justin-Siena, Alejandro Cabrera and Madeline Libbey of Sonoma Valley High School, and Nick Dagan and Scott Kunihiro of Napa High.

Student talks were judged on elocution and style, their ability to immediately “grab” the audience in the introduction, use of digital media to enhance their presentation, the general crafting of their talk and the ability to deliver it within the allotted three to six-minute time frame. “Our public speaking class utilizes the TED website as part of our curriculum. Students really need to understand the importance of being able to communicate their ideas. It’s one thing to put something down on paper, it’s another to present it in front of an audience and capture their attention. There’s a lot that goes into moving the audience and that’s exactly what this competition provides. It was great to see it in action,” said Justin-Siena President and CEO Robert Jordan.

TEDxNapaValley 2014 will feature 14 speakers from the local community and beyond. is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The first TEDxNapaValley conference took place in 2011.

Sanders plans to major in either history or international relations in college, and he is waiting now to hear where he will be in school next year. He participates in Mock Trial and was also chosen as one of Justin’s three representatives to the Boys State civic leadership program last summer.

In his spare time, he plays both varsity and club water polo.

He is the son of Morgan Sanders and former Mayor Joanne Sanders.