White House Salutes Champions of STEM Diversity

For years, President Obama has declared that America can “win the future” and achieve the next level of greatness through education, innovation and diversity. The White House today will salute a group of professionals, entrepreneurs and educators it calls “Champions of Change,” professionals, entrepreneurs and educators who have designed models of inclusion in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sectors.

According to White House officials, these 10 local heroes are being honored because they have created initiatives to advance young people underrepresented in technology and science, applying a range of nontraditional approaches to engage students including photography, film, hip hop music, coding competitions and community-based workshops. The event, which is closed to press, will be live streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live at 10:00 am.

The recognition comes at a time when more historically black colleges and universities, civic organizations, government officials and businesses have been focused on attracting African Americans to this opportunity-rich field. In fact, BLACK ENTERPRISE with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will present the “Educating Our Daughters” symposium at the Women of Power Summit in Boca Raton, Florida today to increase the flow of young women of color into STEM programs.

STEM has always been a major component of the education platform of the president who maintained the nation could achieve “our generation’s Sputnik moment” in his 2011 State of the Union address. He signed two years ago an executive order creating the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans as a means of repositioning the US as global leader in education and, at the same time, improving the scholastic achievement 0f African Americans in K-12 and postsecondary education.

The following Champions of Change could play a large role in driving the innovation and education agenda. Here are this year’s recipients:

Kevin Clark, director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University, uses the expertise of scholars and industry professionals nationwide to develop, among other things, digital media products and quality educational resources for diverse audiences. His recent activities have focused on the use of video game design to bolster interest in STEM careers.

Christopher Emdin, director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education at Columbia University, manages the Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., competitions among students in New York City public schools that uses hip hop culture, and the #HipHopEd social media movement, which seeks to drive public conversation around the intersection of hip hop and the sciences.

Andrea Hence Evans, principal of KidGINEER, LLC and a Washington, DC intellectual property attorney who has spoken at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference about protecting business concepts. She has developed KidGINEER as a powerful STEM enrichment program to help students retain interest in math and science at an early age.

Eunique Jones Gibson, a New York-based artist, cultural architect and media specialist, is founder of the Because of Them, We Can™ campaign which encourages youth to pay homage to the legacy of their ancestors through their own individual pursuit of greatness using photographs, video and technology.

Reagan Flowers, founder of C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services in Houston, created the nation’s first integrated Pre-K-12 STEM enrichment program. Using her own resources 12 years ago, she built an organization impacting more than 100,000 students.

Christina Lewis Halpern, founder of New York-based All Star Code, developed a not-for-profit education organization to close the tech opportunity gap for young men of color through an intensive skills development program, internships, mentorship and networking. She is a 2014 Echoing Green semifinalist and a board member of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, named after her father who founded TLC Beatrice, the first BE 100s company to surpass the billion-dollar mark in revenues.

Felecia Hatcher, co-founder of Miami-based Code Fever, seeks to develop 10,000 black-owned start-ups by training African American youth in the areas of technology and entrepreneurship. An author, social entrepreneur and Chief Popsicle of Feverish Ice Cream, Hatcher has been featured as a Black Enterprise Innovator of the Week.

Danielle N. Lee, a Stillwater, Oklahoma animal behavior biologist that has developed groundbreaking research, has developed science outreach efforts to underserved groups using outdoor programming and social media. She blogs about research, evolutionary biology and diversity at The Urban Scientist hosted by Scientific American Scientific American Blog Network.

Kalimah Priforce, co-founder of Oakland, Califoria-based Qeyno Labs, an education innovation startup that works with local partners and schools to foster STEM diversity in K-12 education by engaging underserved youth through the Web, mobile-based technology and hack-a-thons.

Kimberly A. Scott, executive director of CompuGirls in Temple, Arizona, launched this technology program for adolescent girls from underserved school districts in 2007, offering participants a chance to work with cutting edge digital media to encourage computational thinking while promoting positive change in their communities.