Jess Ekstrom Photo

Jessica is extremely intelligent. Her business knowledge and professional attitude at her age blew my mind. ‘You shouldn't have to decide between making a living and making a difference’

Taylor Presley, North Carolina State University

This was my favorite event so far. It really gave me motivation to do what I believe in.

Brittany Lee, Marshall University

When she got to the podium at graduation, she gave the best speech I've ever heard. She's living proof that one person truly can make a difference.

Jennifer Crow, North Carolina State University

Actions Speak Louder: Putting Philanthropy Into Motion

Who says an internship can’t change your life? During the summer of her junior year, Jessica Ekstrom worked for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. As she interacted with children facing life-threatening illnesses, she discovered that young girls loved to wear headbands instead of wigs after losing their hair to chemotherapy. Armed with inspiration to do good beyond her internships, she soon after founded an organization she called Headbands of Hope.

HOH creates fun, fashionable headbands, and for every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to childhood cancer research.  Since launching the organization in 2012, HOH has been featured on The Today Show, TOMS Shoes Blog, Seventeen Magazine, Fitness Magazine and more. Most importantly, she’s been able to donate thousands of headbands to girls coast-to-coast fighting cancer.

Jess is living proof that a college student with an amazing idea and a willingness to act on it can dramatically impact the lives of others.

In her campus keynote, Jess shares her journey creating Headbands of Hope, encouraging audience members to change awareness of issues into action. She encourages audiences to crush the stereotypes of the millennial generation and take advantage of the resources available to college students to get an amazing idea off the ground. “Our 20’s is life’s greatest do-over period. So why not go for it?” Jess gives examples of icons that failed in the beginning like Jerry Seinfeld and Dr. Seuss. She also recounts all the times she’s been rejected, messed up and how she bounced back. “If I’m not failing at something, I’m not trying hard enough.”

Some audience members will be inspired by the story of how Jess got her organization off the ground. Others will simply be inspired to find their unique, individual ability to impact the lives of others. Either way, Jess prepares students for the hard work, excitement and challenge that come with big dreams.

Her keynote encourages her audience to “redefine philanthropy” from a requirement to a lifestyle. “We’re so worried about crossing philanthropy and service requirements off our list that we forget the purpose behind it. We forget to feel the passion.” She gives examples of how her life was put into perspective from engrossing herself in a cause. She defines her “success” as the moment she walks into the hospital and sees a girl’s face light up, not when she beats a competitor or hits a numerical goal. But in the end, she reminds her audience that it’s their choice to put what they learned into action. “Sure, it’s scary. But it’s okay to take risks. Coloring outside the lines can lead to amazing things.”

Jess is a great choice for programs that encourage leadership, social change and making the most of your college experience. She is also a terrific speaker to combine with large fundraising efforts like Relay for Life, Dance Marathons, and other events when you are seeking to connect participants to the greater mission of the project.  She is also a wonderful option for Panhellenic councils looking for an example of a woman who put the value of service into action.

If you’re looking for a young, motivated, inspiring speaker to deliver a message of hope and possibility, please consider Jess for your student audience. She might just inspire one of your students to do something remarkable.

Here’s What I Learned: Making the Most of College

Jess Ekstrom did college right. Finishing school in 2013, Jess managed to graduate at the top of her class academically, launch her own company, hold an internship all four years (including Disney World, Make-A-Wish and the TODAY Show), and develop a great group of friends and contacts on and off campus.  She was then voted to give the graduation commencement address in front of an audience of 20,000. She walked away from her campus community having made a significant impact, and she was personally impacted by the relationships and connections she formed. 

Today, Jess is spreading her message to incoming college students nationwide, helping them make the most of their college experiences. Jess’ keynote offers the tips and tricks she learned as a student that helped her excel. Jess gives academic guidance—how to interact with professors and succeed on group assignments—and social suggestions—how to get along with roommates, utilize campus safety systems, and tips surrounding alcohol safety. 

Overall, Jess’s tips will help students lead happy, fulfilling college careers and gain meaningful work opportunities upon graduation. This is a great option if you’re looking for a young, energetic, knowledgeable speaker to energize your Orientation or freshman success event!

Jess's Bio

During her junior year of college, Jess started her own company, Headbands of Hope, to help brighten the lives of children battling cancer. For every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund life-saving childhood cancer research. Jess works full-time as the CEO of the company, regularly visits hospitals around the country to deliver headbands to girls and visits campuses nationwide to share her story of how she turned a summer internship into an organization that changes the world.

Jess is a 2013 graduate of North Carolina State University.


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