From left are EECI graduate Patrick Tate, singer Michel’le, EECI Executive Director Barbara J. Stanton, EECI graduate Shannon Clay and City Councilman Curren Price. (Valerie Vines Photography)

The Entrepreneur Educational Center, Inc. (EECI), a groundbreaking nonprofit under the leadership of Executive Director Barbara J. Stanton, recently celebrated the commencement of its Class of 2023, composed of Black and Brown entrepreneurs and certificated scuba divers.

The graduation ceremony was held at the L’Cheriyve Studio in Gardena. The graduates received certificates of recognition from several elected officials including Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and State Senator Steven Bradford.

The event featured a star-studded lineup, including local R&B artist and entrepreneur Michel’le, harpist and vocalist Maia, Del Atkins and The LYFE Band, and DJ Hippie. Michel’le, a previous recipient of the Legendary Songstress Award, praised the graduates for their determination and courage in pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.

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“To be an entrepreneur takes more than having a desire to accomplish goals in life. It takes willpower, strength, and courage,” said Michel’le, whose songs contributed to the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop. “You students have displayed that and will inspire others to do so. God bless you all in your journey going forward.”

Prominent attendees included the former Congresswoman and U.S. Ambassador Diane E. Watson, L.A. Councilman Curren Price and his wife, Del Price, and Captain Dr. Gerald A. Higginbotham, the president of Captain’s Millionaires, Inc.

“I spoke with several of the graduates about their businesses and what are some of their long-and short-term objectives. The new entrepreneurs expressed their desires to take on the new challenges that awaits them,” said Higginbotham.

Captain Dr. Gerald A. Higginbotham and former U.S. Congresswoman Diane E. Watson. (Platinum Star Public Relations)

“Being underserved and not having an equal level playing field has plagued the Watts community.  Entrepreneur Educational Center Inc. is truly committed to changing the paradigm in Watts, California. Meeting Barbara and her team have made a believer out of me that the city of Watts is headed in a new direction and to expect wonderful, and amazing outcomes.”

The Class of 2023 comprises a group of diverse individuals hailing from the Los Angeles County 2nd District, with ages ranging from 30 to 60. From transitional homes and catering services to transportation and youth programs, their ventures span a wide range of essential services aimed at benefiting the Black and Brown communities within the Second Supervisorial District.

Highlighting the significance of EECI’s Genesis Diving Program, led by Gerald Durant, LA City Fire Department Dive Master of Recovery, Stanton said, “This pioneering program not only provides opportunities for Black and Brown individuals to enter the world of scuba diving but also places a special emphasis on their prospects within the Port of Los Angeles.

Students in the Certificated Scuba Divers visited a dive shop to learn about equipment. (Valerie Vines Photography)

“This initiative receives additional support from AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, further enriching the opportunities for the program’s participants.”

The success of Stanton’s mission to increase diversity in entrepreneurship is reflected in the graduates of EECI’s Miracle’s Entrepreneur Program and Scuba Diving Program. With their newfound skills, these entrepreneurs and divers are poised to make lasting contributions not only to their communities but also to the broader Los Angeles County.

For more information about EECI and their free programs, email [email protected] or call (323) 757-7506.

Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA is a global media director and owner of Platinum Star Public Relations and Platinum Star Media Group based in Glendale, CA. Find her on IMDB or Instagram @platinumstarpr