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:
- To provide platforms for youth (and other impacted populations) to make recommendations regarding the policies, practices and programs designed to accelerate learning and development;
- To highlight people, programs and practices facilitating the learning and development of African Americans students; and
- To serve as a liaison between and among communities supporting African American students of all ages.
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In the News
On May 6, 2021 WHIEEAA Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint hosted the AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable #BlackMenTeach: Amplifying Ways to Recruit and Retain Black Male Teachers. This roundtable occurred during Teacher Appreciation Week and highlighted culturally competent best practices to recruit and retain Black male teachers.
Moderated by Dr. Bryan Hale, Program Lead, School Ambassador Fellowship, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, panelists included:
- Travis J. Bristol, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
- Sharif El-Mekki, Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Black Educator Development
- Darrion Cockrell, Missouri’s 2021 Teacher of the Year and NEA’s 2021 Horace Mann Friend of Education award winner
- Jermaine Williams, 2021 School Ambassador Fellow, U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona provided opening remarks and welcomed our esteemed speakers.
On April 27, 2021, WHIEEAA and the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities held a Student Summer Federal Opportunities webinar. Guest presenters shared student federal summer opportunities at their respective agencies predominantly for high school and college students.
On April 14, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint facilitated two roundtables on Equity and Inclusivity at the Spring Ed Tech Advocacy and Policy Virtual Fly-In event hosted by the Office of Educational Technology. Other presenters at her session included Tara Courchaine from the Office of Special Education Programs, and Lisa Gillette from the Office of Migrant Education. The roundtables were a conversational experience where Department staff and stakeholders learned from each other.
On March 23, 2021, WHIEEAA held its annual AfAmWomenLead event. This year the theme was Spotlighting Black Girls on Different Paths to Success. Joined by Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, State and Local Engagement, Office of Communication and Outreach, U.S. Department of Education, WHIEEAA Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint conducted virtual fireside chats with dynamic young leaders that are excelling in the classroom, community, and corporate world.
- Sydney Barber, 1st Black Female Brigade Commander, U.S. Naval Academy
- Essynce Moore, Author & Entrepreneur, Essynce Couture, LLC
- Zandra Cunningham, CEO and Founder, Zandra Beauty
- Jordan West, Philanthropist, Princess for a Day
On Feb. 23, 2021, in collaboration with the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), WHIEEAA held its monthly virtual AfAmEd Connector Roundtable titled Celebrating the Diversity of the Black Student: Supporting the Black English Language Learner. Speakers discussed ways to recognize and support the Black English language learner.
- Supreet Anand, Deputy Director, OELA
- Ayanna Cooper, TESOL International Association Board Member Chair
- Maimouna Dieye, Program Manager, African Communities Together
- Craig Martin, Executive Director, Bridge Boston Charter School and 2018 National Distinguished Principal of the National Association of Elementary School Principals
On Feb. 2, 2021, WHIEEAA kicked off its Black History Month Celebration with a virtual roundtable titled Embracing the Black Family in Schools: Cultural Competency, Teacher Diversity, and Family Engagement. Moderated by Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint, the event featured panelists from the U.S. Department of Education that discussed critical ways to support Black families in schools to enhance student success.
- Dr. Bryan Hale, Program Lead, School Ambassador Fellowship, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, (OESE)
- Cynthia O’Brien, Program Liaison, Teach to Lead, OESE
- Dr. ReShone Moore, Director, Graduate and Special Focus Programs Division, Office of Postsecondary Education
- Jamila Smith, Director, Office of Innovation and Early Learning, OESE
On December 15, 2020, WHIEEAA held its monthly virtual roundtable titled There’s No Place Like Books for the Holidays: Encouraging Reading as an Extracurricular Activity for African American Students.
- Jamila Smith, Director, Office of Innovation and Early Learning, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
- Karen Tate, Director, National Library of Education, U.S. Department of Education
- Yvette Hayward, Founder, African American Literary Awards
On November 17, 2020, WHIEEAA celebrated International Education week with its monthly virtual roundtable. Executive Director Terris Todd moderated the AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled Building Global Competitiveness: Supporting International Learning Experiences for Black Students.
- Amaris Ifedi, Coordinator, Global Education, Office of Teaching and Learning, DC Public Schools
- Wagaye Johannes, Director of Operations and Organizational Development, Diversity Abroad
- Shannon Kendrick, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Intergovernmental Affairs, Peace Corps
- David Levin, Senior Program Manager and Diversity Coordinator, US Department of State
- Dwayne Matthews, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Fmr. Diversity Recruiter, Peace Corps
On October 26, 2020, Executive Director Terris Todd facilitated a session on engaging fathers during the virtual ParentCamp with HHS’s Administration for Children and Families and the Department of Education as partners in the event. Additional events throughout the week deepened understanding about what is needed to authentically engage parents and cross-sector partners to ensure successful transitions for children from early childhood programs to K-12. The week of Oct. 26, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided new insights regarding RADICAL family engagement and how it can change the landscape of education and early childhood systems, starting in the early years.
On October 20, 2020, Executive Director Terris Todd moderated the AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled Championing Family Engagement through the Educational Journey of an African American Student.
- Derrick David Bryant, National Fatherhood Initiative Board Member, Father Engagement Coordinator, Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas, Texas Home Visiting Program
- Dawn Ellis, Liaison to Parents and Families, National Engagement Team, Office of Communication and Outreach, U.S. Department of Education
- Dana Canales Jamierson, African American Community Liaison, Lakeview School District, Battle Creek, Michigan
- Tammy Proctor, Supervisor/Group Leader, Office of Innovation and Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education
- Carmen Sanchez, Education Program Specialist, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education
- Aimee Viana, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education
On September 29, 2020, Executive Director Terris Todd moderated the AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled Connecting the Dots for Communities of Color with Academics, Broadband and Culture. The topic for this roundtable commemorated Hispanic Heritage Month and was inclusive of data and dialogue that extended beyond the African American community to communities of color.
- Maha Abdelkader, Education Program Specialist, Office of English Language Acquisition, U.S. Department of Education
- Orman Feres, Group Leader, Office of Effective Educator Development Programs (EEDP), Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), U.S. Department of Education
- Jovan Hicks, Board Member, Everyone On (A HUD/ConnectHomeUSA partner); Area Manager, State Legislation and Regulatory Affairs, AT&T
- Adam Safir, Director, Office of Educational Technology (OET), U.S. Department of Education
On August 25, 2020, Executive Director Terris Todd moderated the AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled Building a Pipeline for African American Students in Technology. The event started with a preview of resources at ED and an overview of the National Education Technology Plan by Adam Safir, Director, Office of Educational Technology (OET), US Department of Education.
The heart of the discussion was a fireside chat with Ernest Holmes, graduate from Morehouse College class of 2019 with degrees in computer science and mathematics. At Morehouse, Ernest interned at Google for three summers (2016, 2017, 2018) and currently works full-time as a Software Engineer at Google on the Fuchsia Team. In 2019 Ernest also co-founded CodeHouse, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that focuses on exposing students of color to the technology industry. He aims to spread the impact of CodeHouse to students across the nation.
On July 28, 2020, Executive Director Terris Todd moderated the AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled Reimagining Opportunities for Black Students with Disabilities. The topic for this roundtable commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In doing so, WHIEEAA highlighted the importance of meaningfully supporting African American students with disabilities for academic success.
The event started with an overview of Way2Work Maryland by Dr. Natasha Mitchell. As shared on their website:
“Way2Work Maryland is a partnership between the University of Maryland’s Center for Transition and Career Innovation (CTCI) and DORS, the Division of Rehabilitation Services through the Maryland State Department of Education. It is a project designed to improve the academic and career success of students with disabilities in Maryland through work-based learning experiences. The project serves students with either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan who will complete high school with a diploma or certificate in 2019 or 2020.”
After the overview, 3 recent Way2Work graduates shared their experiences on a panel. Our student panelists were:
- Elijah Franklin
- Chris Jones
- Jaeda Scott
Carol Dobak, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Rehabilitation Services Administration, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education provided an overview of the resources available at ED. WHIEEAA Executive Director Terris provided closing remarks.
On July 13, 2020, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint conducted a 45 minute virtual presentation on her career path and role at WHIEEAA as a part of the K12 Job Shadow Week. Her session had a registration of over 1,250 participants, primarily high school students interested in learning about the Initiative and general information about pursuing career exploration options. Other industry experts lined up for the week long series on July 13 – 17, 2020 included experts from Collegeboard, NASA, Google, Tallo, YouTube, Nokia, Spelman College, Motion Picture Association, Miami Dolphins, Homeland Security, etc. and the overall registration for the series was over 2,600 students. Participation was free for all students. Additional information can be found at jobshadowweek.com.
On June 23, 2020, newly appointed Executive Director Terris Todd moderated the inaugural AfAmEd Connector Virtual Roundtable titled Fatherhood as an Essential to Student Success.
Our speakers were:
- Kenneth Braswell, Director, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, and CEO of Fathers Incorporated
- Derrick David Bryant, Board Member, National Fatherhood Initiative, and Father Engagement Coordinator, Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas, Texas Home Visiting Program
- Matt Prestbury, Founder, Black Fathers Foundation
Information about their respective organizations and additional free resources is listed below:
- Black Fathers Foundation: http://blackfathersfoundation.org
- National Fatherhood Initiative: www.fatherhood.org
- Father Friendly Check Up: https://www.fatherhood.org/ffcu
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse: www.fatherhood.gov
- Virtual Collaborative Community (VCC): https://learningcommunity.fatherhood.gov/
- Resources for dads including Dad Jokes, DadTalk blogs, Dad Topics, Activities to Do with Kids, and Fatherhood Program Map
- Resources for practitioners including Program Topics, Program Activities, and the Fatherhood Media Campaign PSAs
- A comprehensive library that will include webinars and multi-media resources within the same library of resources
- Fathers Incorporated: www.fathersincorporated.com
Attendees received a plethora of information to help them to navigate in their personal and/or professional capacities as they work to engage, support, or serve as a father or father figure in the life of a Black student. This is the first of many virtual roundtables to be held by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA).
On May 29, 2020, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA) launched its inaugural edition of The Connector. This newsletter helps to ensure our stakeholders are aware of opportunities, events, news, and more at ED. Sign up to receive The Connector and other correspondence shared by WHIEEAA.
On February 29, 2020, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint facilitated a discussion around promoting leadership among African American students at predominantly white institutions of higher education at the Black Alumni Summit in Tallahassee, FL. Leaders from black alumni associations across the nation assembled to promote civic engagement, leverage the black university network from 10+ universities, and to influence and stimulate black leadership professionally, socially, politically, and economically.
On February 27, 2020, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted Behind the Scenes: Digital Media and the Implication for African American Students workshop. The facilitator was Kevin Clark, Ph.D. Professor, Division of Learning Technologies, and Director, Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University. Dr. Clark led a data-driven discussion regarding the importance of representation in digital media and the implication for African American students. Attendees also worked in small groups to go through the process of pitching a show. Additional resources can be found at: cdmid.gmu.edu.
On November 25, 2019, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted a financial aid bootcamp for local high school students.
- Fred Stennis, Senior Advisor, Awareness and Outreach Team, Federal Student Aid (FSA), U.S. Department of Education;
- Tanika Mangum, Outreach Relationship Manager, Scholarships and Programs, United Negro College Fund (UNCF);
- Delores Cooper & Shirleyne Mcdonald, Assistant & Associate Directors of Financial Aid respectively, American University; and
- Ru’Quan Brown, Scholar, Athlete and Student Leader at Banneker High School in Washington DC.
On October 28 – 30, 2019, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint attended the Leaders Up Future At Work Summit in Los Angeles, CA. Leaders Up works to serve youth ages 18 to 24 who are unemployed and not in school that they call Opportunity Youth. The Future at Work Summit is a unique hiring fair and professional development experience for young adults and community members. This signature LeadersUp event focused on ending the youth unemployment crisis by offering the chance for job seekers to receive career coaching and resume assistance, and to interview and get hired on-the-spot by their employer partners.
On September 19 – 21, 2019, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint served as a member of the Teach to Lead core team for the Teach to Lead Summit in Salt Lake City, UT. Over the course of two days, teacher-led teams worked on a logic model to implement an innovative idea that they want to implement in their school and/or district. Participants received feedback from other teacher leaders and experts, had focused time for collaboration, and participated in targeted skills development sessions designed to increase project success.
On August 5-8, 2019 Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint attended the Blacks in Government National Training Institute in Dallas, TX. Blacks in Government provides their national institute as a professional development opportunity for federal employees to grow as a leader, engage with leaders from other agencies, and leverage resources to allow for the execution of the mission of their offices.
On July 24 – 28, 2019 Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint attended the National Urban League Conference in Indianapolis, IN making direct connections with an organization that has chapters across the nation, can aide in the national impact of the work that WHIEEAA does, as well as sharing the work of the Department.
On June 11, 2019, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted the Rethink School: Culturally Competent Student-Centered Learning Powered By Teach to Lead. Teams from across the nation submitted ideas to participate. 4 teams were selected; 2 with a school-level impact and 2 with a district-level impact. Cynthia O’Brien, School Ambassador Fellow for Teach to Lead, gave an overview of the Teach to Lead logic model and guided them through it. Teacher-led teams spent the day working to incubate their good ideas using the logic model. They were provided an opportunity to provide an elevator speech about their projects and did a gallery walk to share feedback with other teams.
Attendees were also able to hear from practitioners, researchers and a student during a panel discussion about culturally competent student-centered learning. The panel was moderated by
Dr. Vicki Robinson, Program Manager, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Magnet Schools Assistance Program, U.S. Department of Education.
- Dr. Akeda Pearson, Director of Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning, Bowie State University, Bowie, MD;
- Dr. Bryan Hale, Director of Operations, Southland College Preparatory High School, Richton Park, IL;
- Dr. Renee LaHuffman-Jackson, Coordinator, Family & School Partnerships, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA; and
- Darion Evans, Student Speaker, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL.
On April 12, 2019, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint served as a presenter for the Scotchtown Hills Elementary School’s Career Day in Laurel, MD. Students were provided an overview of the work of the U.S. Department of Education and even had the opportunity to draft their own mock policy. A class of sixth graders participated in the activity using the steps shared to developing a policy and opted to draft one on recess to practice what they learned.
On March 29 – 31, 2019, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint served as a member of the Teach to Lead core team for the Teach to Lead Summit in Philadelphia, PA. Over the course of two days, teacher-led teams worked on a logic model to implement an innovative idea that they want to implement in their school and/or district. Participants received feedback from other teacher leaders and experts, had focused time for collaboration, and participated in targeted skills development sessions designed to increase project success.
On March 21, 2019, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted the 4th 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 year’s event titled “The Beauty of Leadership” 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:
- Facilitating discussions about mental health, positive self-image and well-being of girls and young women in the African American community;
- Exposing African American girls to information, resources, and strategies for maintaining wellness; and
- Inspiring African American girls to become positive and confident leaders in their communities.
- Andrea Thomas, Executive Vice President, United Planning Organization
- Candace N. Johnson, Miss Black DC US Ambassador 2018
- Hannah Lucas, notOK App™
- Cynthia O’Brien, U.S. Department of Education School Ambassador Fellow
- Onari Lynea, Founder and CEO of Healing Broken Wings Inc.
The DC Youth Advisory Council presented its leadership opportunity to participants as an example of ways to continue to be leaders in the community once they returned home. The presenter was La Shawn Robinson, Program Specialist, Community Health Administration. Approximately 180 participants from NY to DC were able to have a shared experience about best practices for self-care, positive image and academic achievement.
On February 25, 2019, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans held an event titled Innovative Learning Environments: Using Virtual Reality to Teach African American History. Our featured speaker was Virtual Reality Entrepreneur Kai Frazier. Kai Frazier is a historian (B.A History) and innovative educator (M.Ed) passionate about utilizing technology to provide inclusive opportunities and increased accessibility in cultural institutions for students & young adults.
Attendees participated in an interactive workshop that consisted of a virtual reality field trip to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial via virtual reality goggles. Other speakers included Frank Brogan, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education who provided remarks and Edward Metz, Ph.D., Program Manager, Small Business Innovation Research Program, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education who shared relevant information about education research and innovative programs at the federal level.
On February 11, 2019, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint attended the 18th Annual African American Council for Excellence (AACE) National Leadership Forum at the Lockheed Martin Center for Leadership Excellence (CLE) in Bethesda, MD. AACE is a Lockheed Martin Employee Resource Group established to enhance the professional growth of its members. AACE facilitates mutually beneficial improvements in professional development, cultural awareness, and fosters career growth through mentoring and networking.
On November 15, 2018, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint participated in a meeting with stakeholders working on a Pennsylvania Black Male Teaching/Teacher Diversity Initiative. At the meeting, key stakeholders discussed specific strategies to develop an effective plan to recruit and retain male teachers of color.
On September 28 – 30, 2018, Senior Advisor Monique Toussaint served as a member of the Teach to Lead core team for the Teach to Lead Summit in San Jose, CA. Summits are two-day regional convenings to help spotlight and advance the groundbreaking, teacher-led work that is happening in states, districts, and schools across the country. During a summit, teams of educators convene to think deeply about a problem of practice – an idea for how to improve learning in their school, district, or state context – and to work as a team to plan solutions. The summit is San Jose was focused on teacher-led projects that were focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).
On May 7, 2018, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans held Reimagining the Educator Workforce: African American Teacher Diversity Summit. This summit opened dialogue between educators and educational leaders regarding teacher preparation and cultural competency in the classroom. The goals of the summit were to:
- Highlight research describing the impact that diversity in schools, specifically racial diversity in the teacher workforce, has on students of color;
- Introduce African American college students to a network of diverse education professionals and resources to help navigate entry into the teaching field; and
- Exchange ideas surrounding diverse teacher recruitment, preparation and retention.
- Dr. Elmer Harris, a U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellow and 5th grade teacher at Christa McAuliffe Elementary in Colorado Springs School District;
- Dr. William Hayes, the founding principal of Mastery High School of Camden in Camden, New Jersey; and
- Dr. Lynne G. Long, the Director of Field Experiences and the Chair for the Department of Teaching, Learning and Professional Development in the College of Education at Bowie State University.
The purpose of this event was to inform participants of proven programs and initiatives that recruit and support African American students in earning teaching credentials; to show appreciation to teachers representing diverse backgrounds; and to highlight the importance of having an educator workforce where African American students are represented. Hosting this event during National Teacher Appreciation week provided an opportunity to thank teachers for all that they do inside and outside of the classroom to contribute to African American student achievement.
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 15, 2018, 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 27, 2018, 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.
Workshop presenters included:
- Vincena Allen, Chief College Success Officer, SEED Foundation
- Charlene Brown-McKenzie, Director, Center for Multicultural Equity & Access, Executive Director, Institute for College Preparation, Georgetown University
- Bernadette Gailliard, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Co-Director of the Program for Early Career Excellence (PECE), Rutgers University – New Brunswick Campus
- Grace E. Henry, Ed.D., Director of Diversity and Inclusion, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, George Washington University
- Andrea Thomas, Executive Vice President, United Planning Organization
18 year old Thessalonika Arzu-Embry served as the student keynote speaker. Dr. Thessalonika received her Bachelor’s degree by age 14 and Ph.D. earlier this year and is a world-renowned expert on education, intelligence, and investment.
#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 7, 2017, 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 – 24, 2017, 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 goals for the summit 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.
The summit kicked off with a discussion led by student speaker Kyonne Rowe, senior at Cornell University. The insightful event continued with a panel titled Reimagining Opportunities to Support Minority Students in Postsecondary Education featured the following professionals:
- Moderator: Beatriz Ceja – Williams, Director, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Office of Postsecondary Education, US Department of Education;
- Erin Berg, Community College Program Specialist, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, US Department of Education;
- Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Professor and Dean, School of Education, American University;
- John W. Rawlins III, Assistant Director of Leadership Development, Office of Multicultural Affairs, John Hopkins University; and
- Dr. Charles L. Sexton III, Mathematics Instructional Specialist, Trinity Washington University.
On July 24, 2017, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted a Summit on Supporting African American Youth with Disabilities in honor of the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kristin Kushiyama from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) highlighted the new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website https://sites.ed.gov/idea/. This website is a new information hub that provides resources targeted towards students, educators, parents and community leaders—the audience of Monday’s event.
Following the introduction of the IDEA information hub was a student-led interactive workshop that featured Diplomat, Matthew Brown, of Eye to Eye National. Eye to Eye National is a mentorship program that strives to improve the lives of youth with learning disabilities. Through this program, students learn the skills necessary to become self-advocates, build their self-esteem, and value their unique minds, all the while maintaining a strong system of support. An exceptional Matthew Brown provided a personal account as an African American male with dyslexia, dysgraphia, executive functioning and attention deficit-disorder. Matthew has exemplified the importance of self-advocacy and communal support, as a successful student, mentor, and diplomat of Eye to Eye.
During his workshop, participants pinpointed their greatest strength through an activity entitled Megaphone Project.Through engaging in this hands-on activity, students with disabilities were able to redefine the way that others may view their disabilities amidst fostering conversation highlighting strategies for communal support.
The panel discussion consisted of a range of special education advocates who discussed reimagining opportunities for African American students with disabilities.This panel included:
- Genee Norbert, Secondary Transition Lead, OSERS US Department of Education;
- Kirk Lew, Senior Policy Advisor, Youth Workforce Systems Policy, Office of Disability Employment, US Department of Labor;
- Julie Washington, Ph. D., Director, Communication Sciences and Disorders Program, Georgia State University;
- Ronnie Sydney II, MSW, Outpatient Therapist, Middle Peninsula-North Neck Community Services Board;
- Lena McKnight, College Student and Youth Advocate; and
- Kristin Shymoniak, M.Ed., Lead Special Education Teacher, 2017 American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Bill and Melinda Gates Women in School Leadership Award Recipient.
Each panelist provided a different perspective based on their personal experiences as an African American with disabilities or with African American youth with disabilities. The panelists honed in on identifying one’s disability in order to have access to necessary services. The importance of familial support was emphasized; however, first-degree families may also suffer from similar issues that remain unidentified. This is where the support of one’s community becomes imperative. The panelists further discussed the need for parent advocacy and involvement, as well as shifting the image of students with disabilities from seemingly having behavioral issues to that of a learning disability.
With a full house of 200 attendees, students and parents of students with disabilities continued this discussion by expressing their need for communal and institutional support, in order to ensure success both inside and outside of the classroom. Post-reflection, parents, panelists, and students shared effective resources and strategies to advocate for inclusivity while navigating the educational setting, and beyond.
Brandon Sherman, Senior Counsel to the Assistant Secretary, from the Office of Civil Rights provided closing remarks. Sherman discussed the resources provided by the Office of Civil Rights for students with disabilities, which can be found on: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/.
On June 22, 2017, 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 11, 2017, 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,” 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)
- Get LIT(erature): Supporting a Lifelong Love of Reading
- Why Black Girls Need Diverse Books
- Advocacy is an Obligation, Not a Choice
- Education is the Civil Right
- How Schools Can Support African American LGBTQ Youth
- Supporting First-Generation College Students
- Beating the Summer Slide
- Championing Students Inside and Outside of the Classroom
- The White House