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UCLA held White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
By Kimberlee Buck, Contributing Writer
Published July 1, 2015
The second set of panelist in order from left to right: Cheyenne Grimes, Kenjus Watson, Donte Miller, Elizabeth Flowers and Charity Chandler (Courtesy Photo)

The second set of panelist in order from left to right: Cheyenne Grimes, Kenjus Watson, Donte Miller, Elizabeth Flowers and Charity Chandler (Courtesy Photo)

Recently, President Obama created the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans originally inspired by the Brown v Board of Education decision, this helps Black students improve reading and math proficiency, high school rates, and college completion.

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.

According to the U.S. Department of Education website, “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.”

Instead of ending the conversation with the creation of the initiative, the conversation continued with motivational and uplifting advice.

Being young, Black and gifted was the reoccurring theme for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans hosted by UCLA.

The summit provided the opportunity to hear from Black high school, college and graduate students to share their experiences first hand in order to move the initiative.

On Friday, June 26 more than 50 people gathered into the auditorium to discuss ways to improve educational outcomes for African American students.

David J. Johns the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans lead the discussion on Reimagining Opportunity for Black Youth in Los Angeles was the moderator for the first set of panelist.

Moderator for panel 1 and Executive Director of the White House Imitative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, David J. Johns (Courtesy Photo)

Moderator for panel 1 and Executive Director of the White House Imitative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, David J. Johns (Courtesy Photo)

The panelist for discussion one featured UCLA ’15 alumni Sy Stokes, Anti-Recidivism Coalition Esche Jackson, UCLA ’14 alumni Gary Green and UCLA African American Studies master’s program student Yolanda Hester.

The summit began with an introductory video by Stokes and his peers called The Black Bruin Spoken Word focusing on the injustices African American students at UCLA.

Each panelist was given an opportunity to respond to the video by discussing their own injustice educational obstacles they had to overcome while in school.

“When we come here [UCLA] as people of color, our expectation is to fail, as soon as we fail it is magnified by a thousand,” said Stokes.

The panelist were then asked, what needs to happen in order for Black students to feel engaged and safe?

Jackson a USC alumni who faced many educational obstacles in her life had this to say about the institution of schools:

“Realize issues students are dealing with before they even make it to campus, turn learning institution to healing institution, realizing, maximizing and activating potential.”

Moderator Marcus Anthony Hunter, Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at UCLA conducted the second discussion which featured panelist: Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Loyola Marymount graduate Charity Chandler, UCLA ’15 graduate Donte Miller, UCLA Ph.D. candidate Kenjus Watson, Morningside High school student Cheyenne Grimes and UCLA African American Studies student Elizabeth Flowers.

A second introductory video was show to open up the last panel discussion.

The video stated, what Black people choose to do in regards to bullying matters. Whether they choose to stay in school or go home as Black students, they have to live with the consequences.

The second panel Stabilizing Public Schools to Advance Student Achievement and Ensure College and Career Readiness gave panelist the opportunity to share the experiences in their education that has discouraged them along the way.

“I did not have anyone motivating me, I felt like I had nothing to live for, being taunted by students in front of education triggered me,” said Flowers.

The summit closed with community conversation, reactions and recommendations.

People interested in ways to improve Black student achievement can:

-Partner with community based organizations to create dialogue about the impact educational disparities have on local neighborhoods

-use multimedia to share your message, make art, take photographs and videos to illustrate the power of education

For more information about what you can do to get involved go to www.edtrust.org or contact amariam@edtrustwest.org

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