White House Highlights “Champions of Change” for Educational Excellence for African Americans

February 26, 2013










Office of Communications


February 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, February 26th, the White House will honor ten leaders who have devoted their time and efforts to helping further education among African Americans. These individuals have provided exemplary leadership in the area of education in the African American community at the local, state or regional level. 

“President Obama has made providing a complete and competitive education for all Americans – from cradle to career – a top priority,” said Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.  That’s why, last summer, he signed an executive order to establish the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. This week, we look forward to welcoming Champions of Change who have been working to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.”

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative.  Each week, the White House features a group of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. 

An announcement will also be made at the event by Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. This initiative was established by an Executive Order signed by President Obama in 2012. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will work across Federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students.  The Initiative aims to ensure that all African American students receive an education that fully prepares them for high school graduation, college completion, and productive careers.

To watch this event live, visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 4:30 pm ET on February 26th.

Robert Balfanz – Baltimore, MD

 Robert Balfanz is a professor at Johns Hopkins University, School of Education, and Co-Director of the Everyone Graduates Center.   He works to end the nation’s high school dropout crisis by analyzing the scale and nature of the challenge, developing tools and evidence-based approaches to enable all students to graduate college and be career ready, and increase the capacity of schools, school districts, and community organizations to implement them. 

Kyle Bacon – Gaithersburg, MD

Kyle Bacon is an entrepreneur committed to youth development and community service. As Mentor Program Coordinator of the U.S. Dream Academy learning center in Washington, D.C., Kyle uses his skills in business and education for development, program creation, and intervention efforts. Kyle’s passion for helping at-risk youth was inspired by his family, especially his parents, a community leader and an educator. Kyle has served public and independent schools in Ohio, Maryland and in D.C., and he has been effective in significantly improving students’ academic skills. Kyle is a proud alumnus of the Howard University School of Business, where he earned a Bachelor degree in Business Administration in International Marketing. He is active in community and philanthropic organizations, including Capital Cause, and a men’s life-enrichment group through his church relationships.

Esther L. Bush – Pittsburgh, PA

Esther L. Bush serves as the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh which was recently ranked as one of the nation’s top performing affiliates. Ms. Bush was appointed by Governors to serve on entities such as the PA State Board of Education, Law Enforcement and Community Relations Task Force,  and the Governor’s Commission on Academic Standards.  Ms. Bush has worked as a high school teacher, college administrator, corporate consultant, and executive at Urban League affiliates in New York (Staten Island and Manhattan branches), Hartford, and Pittsburgh. Ms. Bush holds a B.S. from Morgan State University, M.S. from Johns Hopkins University, and Honorary Doctorate degrees from University of Hartford, Carlow University, and Allegheny College.

Hedy Chang – San Francisco, CA

Hedy Chang directs Attendance Works, a national initiative aimed at advancing student success by ensuring educators, community partners, and families work together to monitor and intervene when students or schools are struggling with high levels of chronic absence. Hedy is deeply committed to two-generation solutions to achieve a more just and equitable society that draws strength from its diversity.  She has spent more than two decades working in the fields of family support, family economic success, education, and child development.

Haben Girma – San Francisco, CA,  Harvard Law School, MA

Haben Girma empowers students with disabilities to become better self-advocates, and teaches families and educators to set high expectations. The first deafblind student at Harvard Law School, she is on her way to becoming a disability rights lawyer. Haben has conducted workshops and speeches for students and educators around the country, interned at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, spent 3 weeks building a school in Mali, and served as a mentor to students with disabilities in the U.S. and abroad. After law school, Haben will serve as a Skadden Fellow at Disability Rights Advocates where she will work to increase the accessibility of digital instructional materials at colleges and universities.

Michael Graham – Durham, NC

Michael lives in Durham, North Carolina and works at the Durham VA Medical Center. He is married and has three children, one of whom has Downs Syndrome. Michael grew up and went to school in Columbia, South Carolina. He served in the U.S. Air Force Selected Reserves as a Flight Medical Technician for twelve years. Michael is devoted to all community causes that are dedicated to children with special needs and their families. He believes in helping parents with special needs children get the best education possible for their children while being informed of what they need to know as parents.

Phillip Jackson – Chicago, IL

Phillip Jackson was born into and resided in public housing in Chicago.  Mr. Jackson attended eleven Chicago public schools with varying levels of success.  He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors with a degree in Philosophy and studied education at National College of Education.  In his career, he has served as senior vice president of operations for a large retail book chain; assistant budget director for the City of Chicago; chief of staff for Chicago Public Schools; chief executive officer for the Chicago Housing Authority; chief for education for the City of Chicago; and president and chief executive officer for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago.  He is founder and executive director of The Black Star Project, which works to create globally competitive, globally compassionate, globally cooperative students, parents, families, and communities.

Becky James-Hatter – Saint Louis, MO

Becky James-Hatter is President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, serving St. Louis City, as well as, St Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson, and Cape Girardeau counties. As a 24-year veteran of Big Brothers Big Sisters and a former high school teacher, Becky has devoted her career to formulating and advancing initiatives related to youth, mentoring, and education. Within the national Big Brothers Big Sisters’ federation, she is a steadfast advocate for building trusting and enduring relationships that support and encourage young people.

Erin Jones – Lacey, WA

Erin Jones was born in the United States but raised in the Netherlands, where her parents worked as teachers at the American School of The Hague. Erin speaks four languages and returned to the United States in 1989 to attend Bryn Mawr College, where she earned a BA in Comparative Literature with a focus on literatures of the African Diaspora. Erin later earned her teaching certificate at Pacific Lutheran University with endorsements in English, French and ELL. She was named Most Innovative Foreign Language Teacher in 2007 and in 2008 she was selected as the Washington State Milken Educator of the Year. Erin served three years as Assistant State Superintendent for Student Achievement in Washington State, where she was responsible for working with educators and policy makers to create policies and practices that would better serve students of color and students otherwise disenfranchised. Based on a desire to be closer to students and teachers, Erin recently took a position as the Director of Equity and Achievement for the Federal Way School District, a large, very diverse district south of Seattle.

Joyce Parker – Greenville, MS

Joyce is the Director of Citizens for a Better Greenville. Joyce became involved in grassroots organizing throughout the community as a tribute to her parent’s legacy. Her mother, who is 91 years old and was raised by her grandmother, a slave until the age of twelve, sets the standards by which Joyce engages in this work. Joyce has a degree in Criminal Justice. She is part of the Prevention of Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Coalition, Mississippi Delta Catalyst Roundtable, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Fannie Lou Hammer Sister Roundtable. Her hobbies include singing, traveling, and movie going. She says that “nothing is impossible and quitting is not an option.”

13 Responses to White House Highlights “Champions of Change” for Educational Excellence for African Americans

  1. Pamela Tolbert-Bynum on February 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Phil Jackson,
    You are a hero to us all, and so very worthy of this long-overdue honor! Blessings and much peace to you, my brother and my comrade.

  2. Dennis RAHIIM watson on February 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Phil Jackson—-Congratulations you are a Blessing and a Godsend to thousands of black men an women who read your black star project newsletter.I honestly beleve that it would ten men their whole lifetimes to achieve and accomplish what you have done in your life.I am proud of your stellar leadership in Chicago and beyond.what I find so commendable is your ability to bring together the best black minds in America to address the state of black youth and black males.you are avtrue Visionary and a trail blazer.I honor and treasure you and I applaud president Barack Obama for honoring you with this recognition as you do all within your power to end gun violence and gang warfare. Dennis RAHIIM Watson—chairman the national youth and gang violence task force and CEO –the center for black student achievement—new York—saving.ouryouth@yahoo.com

  3. Robbie L Moultrie on February 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    A present day “Champion of Change” is Marian Wright Edelman. Actions taken during this present time are vital to continue progressing ‘FORWARD’.

  4. Kidz Korna, NFP on February 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Congratulations to you our Inspirational leader, Mr. Phillip Jackson, your non stop committment to champions ideas for change motivates us to keep doing.

    Delece Williams, Founder

  5. Kidz Korna, NFP on February 26, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Congratulations to you our Inspirational leader, Mr. Phillip Jackson, your non stop committment to champion and execute successful ideas for change motivates us to keep doing.

    Delece Williams, Founder

  6. Bill Gerstein on February 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm


    It is great to see that you are being honored in this way. Keep doing what you do and let’s hope that you continue to focus attention on the important work is needed in our city.

  7. Tess Bradford on February 26, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Phillip.this honor is long overdue. The persistence, dedication, and unwavering support that you have demonstrated for our children has been outstanding. If only they knew, thank you for being there. We hear you ! The president hears you and is recognizing you at long last!! Have a wonderful visit – tell us every detail upon your return. May God Bless you Always ,Always. Take a grand picture – Get a big donation!! It is time for expansion and salaries.

  8. Edward Turner on February 26, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Kyle, congratulations to you on your selection as a White House Champions of Change honoree. Your passion and commitment to educating today’s youth is a shining example of your dedication and an inspiration to us all. Keep up the good fight of faith on behalf of our children and the Lord will bless your efforts and enlarge your territory in the days ahead. The best is yet to come!

  9. Richard Sims on February 27, 2013 at 1:51 am

    Phillip, congratulations! You have always been a true champion of change. You are truly a beautiful brother and have been and remain a true servant of our youth. The energy you have always had is certainly God given. You deserve this award and more. Stay Blessed!

  10. FSCP on February 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm

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  11. LARRY DELANO COLEMAN on February 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm


  12. Bril Barrett on February 28, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Congratulations Mr. Jackson,
    You have always been a champion for change and you are one of the people who really did (and still do)more than talk. You are a man of ACTION and you have been a blessing to our community! You one of the positive Black Men that I look up to. You inspire me to keep doing the work in our community!

  13. barbara baker on March 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Dear Phil, I am so happy that your work to help the children, educate the children & stop the violence is recognized. I tell you this face to face and I repeat it here You Are The Best! I will continue to support your work. Peace,

    Barbara J. Baker, Midwest Regional Rep. N’COBRA &
    Chicago Chapter, N’COBRA Co Chairperson

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