White House Honors Educational Champions

David Johns will head the Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

Posted: 02/27/2013 05:21 PM EST
David Johns

David Johns (Photo: David Johns/Twitter)

The White House this week honored several African-American "Champions of Change" who have led initiatives in their communities to expand and enhance educational opportunities for Black students.

The administration also named David Johns, a veteran of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to lead its Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans.

Johns recalled at the White House ceremony growing up in Inglewood, California, when "being book smart was the fastest way to get you beat up or your sneakers stolen." But President Obama has made being smart cool and Johns hopes to capitalize on that to achieve the president's goal to improve educational outcomes for African-Americans of all ages.

He said that in addition to supporting programs that will help ensure Black students receive a quality education that prepares them for college or the workplace, the initiative also will highlight the roles of African-American educators and administrators, especially males, and enhance investment in high-quality early care and education programs.

Erin Jones, director of equity and achievement for a school district in South Seattle, Washington, also was celebrated at the event. She began her career in the field working to ensure that every African-American boy received a great education and had the option to go to college.

"The system public education and American culture, in general has created gaps in opportunity and expectation, and it is my goal to be part of closing those gaps," she wrote in the Champions of Change White House blog.

Joyce Parker, who is the director of the Mississippi-based Citizens for a Better Greenville, wrote that she is the "yes, we can person" to parents and children she works with. "I am the encourager to those who dare to dream."

Michael Graham is an advocate who has served several committees, boards and task forces that focus on special education and policies. He also is the father of a daughter who has Downs Syndrome.

"My passion is renewed daily each time I look at her and other children like her," said Graham.

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