About Us

President Obama with African American youthNearly 60 years since the Brown v Board of Education decisions, African American students continue to lack equal access to a high quality education and still lag far behind their white peers in reading and math proficiency, high school rates, and college completion.

That’s why President Obama created the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative is a cross-agency effort aimed at identifying evidence-based practices that improve student achievement, and developing a national network that shares these best practices.

The Initiative will support the President’s desire to “restore the country to its role as the global leader in education, to strengthen the nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers, and satisfying lives” including in the the following ways:

  • Highlighting the role of educators and administrators in increasing and improving access to high quality learning opportunities while also finding ways to support them in their work;
  • Supporting efforts to increase the number of African American teachers and administrators, specifically the number of African American males in the profession;
  • Enhancing investments in high quality early care and education programs, specifically increasing the number of African American children enrolled in quality childcare and preschool programs;
  • Reinforcing connections to rigorous K-12 courses and increasing access to critical supports, including by strengthening relationships between schools and communities and local businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, and parent and volunteer organizations; and by
  • Helping to increase the number of African American students applying to, persisting in and successfully completing college to ensure that we meet the President’s 2020 goal of becoming the world leader in college graduates.


Initiative Staff

David J. Johns, Executive Director

David Johns, Executive Director

David Johns, Executive Director

David J. Johns is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative works across federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students. Prior to joining the Department, Johns was a senior education policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) under the leadership of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Before working for the Senate HELP committee under Chairman Harkin, Johns served under the leadership of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. Johns also was a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Fellow in the office of Congressman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. Johns has worked on issues affecting low-income and minority students, neglected youth and early childhood education and with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). His research as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow served as a catalyst to identify, disrupt and supplant negative perceptions of black males within academia and society. Johns is committed to volunteer services and maintains an active commitment to improve literacy among adolescent minority males. Johns obtained a master’s degree in sociology and education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he graduated summa cum laude while simultaneously teaching elementary school in New York City. He graduated with honors from Columbia University in 2004 with a triple major in English, creative writing and African American studies. Johns was named to the Root100 in both 2014 and 2013, selected as a member of the Ebony Power 100 in 2015 and received an early career award from Columbia University, Teachers College in 2016.


Lauren C. Mims, Assistant Director

Assistant Director

Lauren Mims, Assistant Director

Lauren C. Mims is the assistant director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative works to strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers, and satisfying lives. Ms. Mims focuses her efforts on strategic planning and management of projects and priorities including mobilizing youth voice, supporting interagency relationships, the development of research-based publications, creating handbooks and resources for students, and engaging with stakeholders through multi-media platforms.  Ms. Mims was previously a fellow in the office. She has extensive experience developing and implementing communication strategies, analyzing and interpreting evaluation and research findings in education and integrating research findings across programs and organizational lines, as well as developing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based interventions for African American students. Mims received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2012 and a Master of Arts degree in Child Development from Tufts University in 2014. She is also pursuing her doctorate at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science.


Monique S. Toussaint, Senior Advisor

Monique Toussaint, Senior Advisor

Monique S. Toussaint is a Senior Advisor for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative works to develop, implement and coordinate educational programs and initiatives at the US Department of Education and other agencies to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for African Americans of all ages.  Ms. Toussaint manages the operational duties of the Initiative including the intra-agency working group and the Ambassador program, coordinates the student volunteer intern program, and facilitates relationships with internal and external stakeholders. Her primary focus includes highlighting resources to  improve the programs, practices and policies enacted by the caring and concerned adults responsible for students’ development and to increase the participation of the African American community and institutions that serve the African American community in the Department’s programs and in education programs at other agencies.  A former Program Officer in the Parental Options and Information (POI) division of the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), this dynamic federal employee has provided technical assistance to the grantees of various programs including the Promise Neighborhoods and Full-Service Community Schools programs. In addition to developing, implementing and evaluating programs, she administered multiple contracts including a contract with SEDL and its subcontractor Harvard Family Research Project; played a leadership role in the integration of a family engagement framework that informs the practices and policies of the Department; served as a Corporate Recruiter; and was a founding member of the Family and Community Engagement Strategy team.

Prior to joining the federal government, Monique held positions in the Leadership Development Division at the Institute of International Education; Sallie Mae’s Kids2College DC; American University’s Career Center; conducted her practicum at the Institute of College Preparation at Georgetown University’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access; and participated in a two week Delegation on Business in China with the International Scholar Laureate Program.

Monique holds a M.A. in Education and Human Development from George Washington University and a B.S. in Business Administration from the Kogod School of Business at American University in Washington, DC. She enjoys helping others help themselves, served as a tutor with Horton’s Kids, is the President of the Rotary Club of Dupont Circle, and was an inaugural member and Professional Development Co-Chair of the YWCA’s newly established Young Women’s Leadership Council. Passionate about empowering others, she is an Adjunct Instructor for the Adult Basic Education program at Prince George’s Community College and received the 2013 Martin Luther King Drum Major for Service President’s Volunteer Service Award.


Interns & Fellows

  • Alexandria Myers – Fall 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Intern
  • Darnisha Johnson – Fall 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Intern
  • Ashleigh Tillman -Fall 2016 Intern (not pictured)
  • Foluké Tuakli – Virtual Fall 2016 Intern (not pictured)


President's Advisory Commission at their recent Capitol Hill meetingPresident’s Advisory Commission at their September 2015 Capitol Hill meeting

  • Freeman A. Hrabowski III, Chair, President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans
  • Angela Glover Blackwell,  Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink
  • Barbara T. Bowman, Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development at the Erikson Institute
  • Dr. Gwendolyn E. Boyd, President of Alabama State University
  • Peggy L. Brookins, Co-Founder, Director, and Mathematics Instructor for the Engineering and Manufacturing Institute of Technology at Forest High School
  • Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges
  • Dr. James P. Comer, Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University Child Study Center
  • Dr. S. Dallas Dance, Superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools
  • Albert E. Dotson, Jr., partner of Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod
  • Dr. Akosua Barthwell Evans, Chief Executive Officer of The Barthwell Group
  • James O. Freeman, Executive Director, Grassroots Action Support Team
  • Evelynn M. Hammonds, Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University
  • Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition
  • Tiffany Dena Loftin, Former US Student Association President and Racial Justice Program Coordinator at American Federation of Labor- Congress of Industrial Orgs
  • Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Negro College Fund,
  • Dr. Bryant T. Marks,Associate Professor of Psychology at Morehouse College, Director of the Morehouse Research Institute and Director of the Morehouse Male Initiative
  • C. Kent McGuire, President of the Southern Education Foundation (SEF)
  • Michael T. Nettles, Senior Vice President and the Edmund W. Gordon Chair of the Policy Evaluation and Research Center at Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Spencer A. Overton, President, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
  • Rebecca S. Pringle, Vice President of the National Education Association (NEA)
  • E. John Rice, Founder and CEO of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)
  • Dr. Robert K. Ross,  President and Chief Executive Officer for The California Endowment
  • Judge Doris A. Smith-Ribner,former State Appeals Court Judge in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
  • Dr. Ronald A. Williams, former Vice President of The College Board
  • TyKiah R. Wright, President of WrightChoice, Inc.

President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans Meeting Transcripts