Champions of Change for Educational Excellence for African Americans

In honor of Black History Month, the White House recently held a Champions of Change event honoring 10 leaders who are working to ensure that African American students in their community receive an education that prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.  Champions of Change are ordinary citizens who are doing extraordinary things.

Joyce Parker of Citizens for a Better Greenville and Becky James-Hatter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri discussed the importance of nurturing children—“love them, believe in them and let them know you will support their dreams,” James-Hatter said.

As the father of a child with Down syndrome, Michael Graham talked of the challenges parents with children with disabilities face and the importance of parents, families, communities and students having a seat at the table when education decisions are made.

Champions of Change for Education for African American Participants with Secretary Duncan

Champions of Change for Education Excellence for African American Participants with Secretary Duncan

“Let’s talk about the education of our children differently,” said Erin Jones, Director of Equity and Achievement for the Federal Way School District. “Let’s talk about the opportunity gap and not the achievement gap. I don’t have control over how a student takes a test on a particular day, but I absolutely have control over what opportunities I give him to learn the material so that he tests well that day.”

As substantial obstacles to equal educational opportunity still remain in America’s educational system, significantly improving the educational outcomes of African Americans will provide substantial benefits for our country by, among other things, increasing college completion rates, productivity, employment rates, and the number of African American teachers.

For this reason, President Obama signed an executive order last year establishing the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The initiative will work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of educational programs for African American students.

During the Champions of Change event, Secretary Duncan announced the appointment of David J. Johns as the first executive director of the initiative.  Johns, former senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said, “I look forward to bringing my experience in the classroom, Capitol Hill, and working with communities throughout the country to make this very important initiative a success.”

Champion profiles and blog entries are posted on the White House website, and archived video of the event is available on the White House YouTube Channel.

Kimberly Watkins-Foote is director of African American Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education


  1. Perfect!
    It was such a pleasure to read about this initiative. Most recently, I learned that a Los Angeles Unified School Principal at “Bright” Elementary School instructs the schools’ office staff to send African American children home if they come to school out of uniform. However, the Latino children from the same classrooms are allowed to remain on campus. Africian American students self esteems is being bruised every day at Bright Elementary school. Teachers are harassed on a daily basis by this same principal making it totally no energy for educators to teach with enthusiam…AND once I was notifed, I phoned OIG – Los Angeles Unified School District. It was shared with me by OIG that I needed to have the allegations and name provided. However, these teachers feel they will be reprimanted. I am floored…to that end who may I trust for HELP…as this initiative has to reach us ASAP these Afician American children are being crushed daily at this school. It hurts like you don’t even know how much…HELP.

  2. I have a non profit that is reaching out to the community with education in Mathematics, Reading, Writing, and computer skill training. I am a pastor and hold the classes in our local assembly. I am wondering is there anything that we might be eligible for in our programs. We are a non-denominational church and have no parent church to assist us. We are a community church and many of the children in our neigborhood are underprivileged with single parents and blended children. It is a depressed area. Our goal is to assist even the adults with eeducation. Thanks

    • Brenda, I feel your pain. Small programs that make such a big difference have an extremely difficult time getting financial support because everything is made available through your state, your local school district, a large national organization or through consortiums that often will not include small programs no matter how effective they are. Rather than size or connections, small programs with data on the effectiveness of the work being done should have access to financial support independent of the usual stakeholders. Often individuals volunteer and experience great personal sacrifice to have a positive, effective impact. Valuable work needs to be compensated. No program can rely only on volunteers and endless personal sacrifice and be sustained. One of the outcomes for this initiative should be to engage small programs that have data on their results and meet certain minimum requirements. These small incubators can then grow to serve more children. Right now, the large stakeholders keep many small, effective programs on the margins.

Comments are closed.