The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans


The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Initiative) was created to strengthen the nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages and to help ensure that this population would receive an education that prepares them for college and productive careers to contribute to the well being of society. The Initiative works with individuals and organizations throughout the country to highlight and share effective national and local programs, policies, and practices that support the development and success of African American students. Specifically, the Initiative highlights and mobilizes youth voice by providing platforms for African American youths to make recommendations for actions that can be taken to ensure all students feel and are safe, supported and engaged in schools, in communities, and in life.

Additionally, the Initiative leverages relationships with media partners, new and traditional, to shape positive and affirming narratives of African American students, highlight and disseminate promising and proven practices, as well as provide recommendations to accelerate African American Educational excellence essential to the success of African American students, from birth through college completion and career entry.

To date, the Initiative has focused on the following three guiding principles:

  1. To provide platforms for youth (and other impacted populations) to make recommendations regarding the policies, practices and programs designed to accelerate learning and development;
  2. To highlight people, programs and practices facilitating the learning and development of African Americans students; and
  3. To serve as a liaison between and among communities supporting African American students of all ages.

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In the News

On April 3, 2018, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in conjunction with the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships held the MLK Legacy Innovative Service Award Celebration.

On March 152018, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint spoke on a panel with Jason Botel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, along with Denisha Merriweather, School Choice Liaison in the Office of Communication and Outreach, to a group of students from Alabama participating in the Marching On: Montgomery to DC program for high school students. Students later were greeted by Secretary DeVos.

On February 272018, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint served as a member of the Black History Month Planning Committee and hosted the 2018 African American History Month Celebration: African Americans in Times of War event at the U.S. Department of Education. The keynote speaker was SGM (Ret.) Ronald E. Fetherson of the U.S. Marine Corps.

On December 15, 2017, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted the 3rd Annual AfAmWomenLead: Summit to Advance Educational Excellence for Black Girls.

African American Women Lead (AfAmWomenLead) is a student leadership summit tailored to African American student leaders and the civic organizations that support their academic excellence. This event allowed the Initiative to facilitate conversation among participating organizations and individuals, institutions and organizations interested in engaging Black women and girls.

The goals for the summit included:

  •  Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) access and equity;
  • Creating safe and supportive Prekindergarten-College Completion (P-20) learning environments and support systems; and
  • Increasing postsecondary access and completion.

 #AfAmWomenLead  convened a youth leadership summit to engage middle and high school girls in conversation about the issues facing them and the steps they’ve taken as community and campus leaders to pursue educational excellence.

On December 72017, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint presented on a panel titled the Power of Mentoring for the U.S. Department of Education’s Mentoring Program. Advisor Toussaint spoke to her unique experience of serving as both a mentee and then later a mentor in the program.

On October 23 – 242017, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint attended the #RealCollege Convening in Philadelphia, PA. Led by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, researchers and practitioners from across the nation came together to discuss the issue of college food and housing insecurity.

On September 29, 2017, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted a Summit on Postsecondary Success for African American Students. The Summit was comprised of interactive sessions with nonprofit leaders, student affairs professionals, government officials, and postsecondary students who have completed (or will complete) remedial coursework on their paths to college completion.

The goals for the Summit on Postsecondary Success for Minority Students included:

  • Equipping students with the tools they need in order to successfully navigate their postsecondary careers;
  • Summarizing trends on the current status of minority students in developmental education;
  • Embracing and affirming minority students who may benefit from developmental education opportunities; and
  • Highlighting promising and proven strategies to ensure minority students receive optimal learning and development opportunities that enable them to fully participate in society through post-secondary success.

On July 24, 2017, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted a Summit on Supporting African American Youth with Disabilities. The summit was as an interactive morning with government officials, students, teachers, counselors, inclusion specialists, parents and other caring and concerned adults who convened to highlight strategies that ensure the success of African American youth with disabilities in both school and the transition to the workforce.

On June 222017, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint co-presented on Pursuing Systemic Change to Advance Family Engagement at the National Family and Community Engagement Conference in San Francisco, CA. Alongside Keami Harris, Director of Capacity Building Programs for the National Association of Family, School and Community Engagement, the presentation focused on cultural responsiveness and building capacity to implement high-impact family engagement practices.

On June 112017, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint moderated a panel on Engaging Families through Faith-based Organizations during the “Engaging Fathers and Families” Convening held by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in Washington, DC.

On May 23, 2017, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint spoke on a panel titled Engaging Marginalized Families during the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Practices for Family Engagement program in Washington, DC. The daylong event featured a discussion with experts and small-group workshops and brought together educators and families to share success stories and lessons learned for bringing families to schools and schools to families. (Livestream)

On March 28, 2017, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted a Full STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Ahead Summit to advance educational excellence in the STEAM fields. This summit was a response to address the need to get more students involved in STEAM educational subjects and careers.

The morning summit provided a platform for students and stakeholders to share recommendations on the foundations to achieving educational excellence for STEAM education and careers. The summit was the first summit that the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans held in 2017. The Full STEAM Ahead Summit included four panelists: Joeletta Patrick who serves as the Manager of the Minority University Research and Education Program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); Tiera Guinn who is a Rocket Structural Design Engineer for the Space Launch system at NASA; Korin Reid who is a Senior Data Scientist at McKesson Health Solutions; and Janett Martinez who serves as the Chief Executive Officer at Loomia – a smart fabric company voted startup of the year by Wareable.

Pictured left to right: Joeletta Patrick, Korin Reid, Janett Martinez, and Tiera Guinn

The Full STEAM Ahead Summit began with a demonstration from the joint D.C. International School and E.L. Haynes Public Charter School Robotics Team. The team shared their insights that they have learned as a result of being members of the Robotics team.

“Music and robotics are mathematically based; you can get a robot to dance if you want.” –Team Member

Following the demonstration, the summit featured a panel comprised of ground breaking African American Female STEAM leaders. The panelist each took the time to discuss how they made it to their current positions. They took grave detail in describing the intuition it takes to become a leader in STEAM. Later, the panelists took the time to answer student questions regarding the countless pathways to a successful career in STEAM fields. (Blog)

“Everybody’s path is different … you create your own success story” – Tiera Guinn

On March 8, 2017 Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint presented on the Crisis in Black Education for the USDA Office of the Inspector General’s Black History Month Observance program.

On March 2, 2017 the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted its first reading party of the year for D.C. public school students! This celebration of African American readership and authorship was aligned with Read Across America Day – a nationwide celebration of literacy.

The reading party’s sixty participants from Perry Street Prep and Center City Public Charter Schools were actively engaged during the reading of Debbie Allen’s book, Dancing in the Wings – the story of an African American girl with dreams of being accepted as a ballerina.

After the reading, the students displayed their own talents as authors and illustrators. Students designed the covers for their up-coming book releases, drawing on the work of their literary heroes. Students left with copies of their illustrations, along with the reassurance that they too will be noticed for their distinctive talents.

On December 9, 2016 the Second Annual #AFAMWOMENLEAD Student Summit to Ensure Equity for African American Women and Girls was held at the U.S. Department of Education. The daylong convening provided a platform for experts, 250 young Black students, to meet other students, share their stories, make recommendations for how caring and concerned adults and institutions can ensure all students feel safe, engaged, and supported, and to highlight opportunities and resources to facilitate meaningful engagement. Students and caring and concerned adults participated in a series of interactive learning workshops designed to teach the “hidden curriculum,”[1] elevate student voice, provide a forum to design innovative solutions to contemporary problems, and develop concrete recommendations to advance the field. As part of their participation, 50 adults (e.g. federal government officials, educators, administrators, counselors, media moguls, afterschool programs) made commitments to integrate lessons learned during the convening to advance the work of supporting Black girls.

The Initiative presented a full day of events featuring brilliant student experts and women who are advancing the field and making real changes in the lives of African American women and girls. The unique forum centered the voice of students as they solve the most pressing contemporary issues facing African American women and girls. Adults gathered to discuss their work and form a network that will last through the Administration change. These groups will guide the field in ensuring equity. (Summit Memo)

On October 21st David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, presented on “Disrupting Implicit Bias and Other Forms of Discrimination to Improve Access, Achievement, and Wellness for Students of Color” at the Delegate Assembly of the Florida Education Association. (Presentation)

On October 2nd The Faith-Based and Community Leaders Early Learning Toolkit was released at the 46th Annual National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) Conference in Orlando, FL. The toolkit is a comprehensive guide for faith-based and community leaders committed to the lifelong success of families and children. It identifies practices from faith-based and community organizations across the Nation and includes tips, best practices, and useful links.  This resource was drafted in collaboration with NBCDI, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education. (Toolkit)

On September 28th The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (Initiative) Film Screening and Discussion Series (#AfAmEdFilms) held a screening of Traveling Without Moving in partnership with Fresh Films. Traveling Without Moving is a science-adventure film, featured and directed by students, about three teens whose science project unlocks the key to finding their missing parents!

On September 14th 18th The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans produced three sessions during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference (ALC)  in Washington, D.C. The sessions provided platforms for African American students, caring and concerned adults, and public figures to discuss ways to support African American students. The ALC sessions included the Professional Development Series for Educators and a specific workshop: ESSA – Supporting Student Success, including through the Ensuring Every Student Succeeds Act; Producing STEM STARS: Supporting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Success among African American Students; and an Emerging Leaders luncheon: Opportunities to Support African American Educational Excellence. Each session placed students’ needs at the center of the discussion, which resulted in though-provoking dialogue between students, educators, and caring and concerned adults. Panels featured high school students, college students, representatives from companies and organizations, as well as public figures. The goal across each session was to ensure attendees walked away with clear, implementable actions they can take to support African American students. (Session Summaries)

On September 16th The Next Generation: A College Completion Toolkit for First-Generation and Non-Traditional Students developed by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans was released during the US Secretary of Education John King’s Bus Tour as part of the College Completion Fact sheet. The toolkit provides information and support for first-generation students, families, and postsecondary institutions that ensure students receive a quality postsecondary education. Included in this toolkit is a step-by-step guide to help families and communities support first-generation African-American students in preparing for college admission. (Toolkit)

On August 17th The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted the White House Summit on African American Educational Excellence at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, MO in partnership with Teach for America and Wells Fargo & Company. (Article)

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