Champions of Change Blog

  • Using STEM to Create the Future You Want to See

    Kevin Clark

    Kevin Clark is being honored as an African American STEM Champion of Change.

    I am humbled and appreciative to be selected as a White House STEM Access Champion of Change for my work to support and accelerate STEM opportunities for African American students, schools, and communities. I believe STEM education has the potential to improve the educational opportunities for students who are traditionally underserved, but the mere presence of STEM resources are not enough. African Americans watch the most television and spend the most time playing video games, yet a persistent achievement gap still exists. STEM resources have the most educational impact when they are used to accomplish specific tasks and solve relevant problems.

    As I think about my own STEM education, I was motivated more by not wanting to incur the wrath of my grandmother if I brought home poor grades, rather than by my high school curriculum. It wasn’t until I took my first programming class in high school that I became interested and engaged in STEM content; even if it did start with figuring out how to move a computerized turtle from one end of the screen to the other.

    My STEM journey continued as I majored in computer science in college, then it took a fortuitous turn when I left graduate school to work for an educational software start-up company. It was during this time that I realized the value of my STEM education and how it could be applied to the creative design and development educational software and video games. I continue to draw form that experience and knowledge as I consult and advise arts groups, the National Parks Service, museums, and children’s media organizations on issues of diversity and the effective utilization of STEM resources.

    After leaving the corporate sector for higher education, I established the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity (CDMID) at George Mason University to examine issues of diversity in digital media and broadening participation in STEM disciplines and careers.  The STEM For All project epitomizes CDMID’s collaborative goals by convening diverse groups of researchers, practitioners, funding organizations, and policy analysts with interest, expertise, and knowledge in positively affecting the STEM participation and opportunities of traditionally underserved students.

    Another CDMID project, involved the development of a mentoring model that taught middle and high school students how to work in collaborative groups to create educational video games using STEM content. Students who consistently participated in the program showed increased confidence in their math and science abilities, which was also reflected in the improved grades they reported. Although students became engaged and motivated to create STEM-themed educational video games, many of them did not know how to achieve their newly realized dream of becoming a computer programmer, graphic artist, engineer, etc.

    Students and families who begin exploring STEM pathways and learning opportunities early allow for more educational options and possibilities. The HFB STEM project provides opportunities for elementary school students to engage in robotics and technology workshops during and after-school, and for their parents to participate in academic planning workshops and information sessions.

    STEM education is not a panacea, but traditionally underserved communities can use STEM skills to design digital media that captures their stories and perspectives, and equips them with the skills and knowledge to be competitive in the global economy.

     Kevin Clark is a professor in the division of learning technologies in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity.

  • Champions of Change: Women Veteran Leaders

    Women serve in every branch of the military, representing 14.5 percent of today’s active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. By 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates women Veterans will constitute more than 12 percent of the Veteran population.

    Officially, women were permitted to service in the military in 1901. Their service introduced America to a new era of military service and subsequently, women Veterans. For generations now, women Veterans have been honorably serving in the military, and we know their service and success continue when they take off the uniform. 

    As the nation celebrates Women’s History Month, it is important to salute women Veterans for their accomplishments and contributions to society. They have broken barriers and capitalized on the many leadership opportunities afforded by military service. We know that women Veterans are models of character, courage and commitment who continue to blaze trails and open doors.

    This March, the White House Office of Public Engagement will host a Champions of Change event for women Veteran industry leaders, to highlight their incredible contributions to our nation’s business, public and community service sectors.

    We are asking for your help to identify women Veterans who may be “Champions of Change.”

    For example, a champion may be a woman Veteran who is:

    • Serving as subject matter expert within her industry
    • Actively mentoring to enable others’ success
    • A successful entrepreneur and/or businesswoman
    • Leading a program to improve the well-being of fellow Veterans
    • A leader in government
    • Demonstrating success with public/private partnering

    Click on the link below to submit your nomination by midnight on Friday, February 28th (be sure to choose Women Veteran Leader in the "Theme of Service" field of the nomination form).

    Nominate a Women Veteran Leader Champion of Change

    We are looking forward to hosting this event and to highlighting the great work women veterans are doing across the country.

    Elisa Basnight is the Director of the Center for Women Veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • Nominate a White House Champion of Change for AAPI Affordable Care Act Outreach

    For too long, many members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community have lacked access to quality, affordable health care. Consider this: one in four Korean Americans is uninsured; nearly 40% of Asian American women over the age of 40 don’t get routine mammograms; one in four Asian Americans over the age of 18 – and one in three Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders – have not seen a doctor in the last year.

    The Affordable Care Act provides an opportunity to provide nearly two million uninsured Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders with quality, affordable health care – but these individuals won’t gain access to affordable health care unless they know about the benefits of the Act and how to enroll for coverage.

    Since open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace kicked off on October 1, 2013, thousands of community advocates, direct service providers, and community based organizations have stepped up to help AAPIs gain access to health insurance, many for the first times in their lives. They have knocked on doors, educated their friends and neighbors, and helped individuals and families enroll through

    The dedication, commitment, and passion of these “Champions of Change” is worth celebrating – and that’s why we need your help!

    We’re asking YOU to nominate an individual or organization  as a “White House Champion of Change” for their work to educate AAPIs on the Affordable Care Act.  You can nominate Affordable Care Act navigators or consumer assisters, direct service providers, staff of community-based organizations, and other individuals or entities that have focused their Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment efforts on ensuring that AAPIs will fully benefit from health reform. We need your help to nominate the leaders and heroes who have developed best practices that contributed to the success of Affordable Care Act outreach for the AAPI community.

    There are three main categories that you can nominate someone for:

    1. Educators, Assisters, and Navigators. Recognizing individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to educate, assist, and enroll AAPI individuals and families. Their efforts have helped AAPIs understand the Affordable Care Act and ensured that they benefit from this historic law.   
    2. Emerging Community Leaders. Individuals and organizations focused on emerging communities, for example, small, rural, and newly immigrated AAPI communities. These leaders have gone the extra step to ensure that limited English proficient, newly arrived immigrant and refugee families, and AAPI individuals in locations without access to navigators able to provide in-language support, can learn about and enroll in health insurance plans.
    3. Expert Communicators. Individuals who have developed top-notch outreach and communication strategies to ensure that AAPIs can read, hear, and learn about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Their communications strategies included activities such as developing in-language resources, developing written, oral, and media-friendly materials, and working with community groups, faith communities, and ethnic media to reach AAPI communities across the country.  

    When sending in your nominations, please describe the individuals and communities that the Champion of Change has helped, providing as much detail as possible. In addition, make sure to highlight the best practices they used to be creative, effective, and impactful in their Affordable Care Act education, outreach, enrollment, and/or communication efforts. 

    Nominate an AAPI Affordable Care Act Outreach Champion of Change

    NOTE: Nominations are now due no later than Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.



  • Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders

    President Obama has long recognized the importance of engaging and developing the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental leaders.  In 2010, he established the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to help reconnect Americans, especially children, to our country’s rivers and waterways, farms and forests, and to our unparalleled local and national parks.  As one of his first actions under this initiative, the President created the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to provide quality jobs, career pathways, and service opportunities for youth and veterans.

    Through the championship of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Cabinet Secretaries across agencies, we are fostering a new generation of wildlife biologists, park rangers, climate scientists and other professionals to care for our lands and waters.  And throughout the Administration – including at the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Army and the Environmental Protection Agency and Corporation for National and Community Service – we are working to create more opportunities for young people to play, learn, serve and work on our public lands.

  • Nominate a White House Champion of Change for Gun Violence Prevention

    In mass shootings and in the everyday shootings that plague communities across the country, far too many Americans have been severely injured or lost their lives or a loved one as a result of gun violence. Over the last few years, a series of gun-related tragic events galvanized our country and led this Administration to redouble our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals.

    Over the past year, the Administration has taken several steps to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used to run background checks on those who buy guns from federally licensed gun dealers to make sure they are not prohibited by law from owning a firearm. Just this month, the President took two new executive actions that will help ensure that tens of thousands of missing mental health records are added to the background check system.  The Administration also continues to call on Congress to pass common-sense legislation to expand background checks. To date, background checks have prevented over two million guns from falling into the wrong hands. 

    While the President and the Vice President will continue to do everything they can to reduce gun violence, we know efforts to prevent gun violence at the state and local levels – at community centers and recreational facilities, schools, faith-based centers and by other various community leaders often have the most impact. The leaders who are creating change know that when 90% of the American public supports common-sense gun safety legislation, those 90% need to stand up.  Every day, these individuals are stepping up in big ways in our communities to make sure that all Americans can feel safer when they put their children to bed each night, and when they step outside with their families in the morning.  

    Today, we’re asking you to help us identify and honor state and local leaders taking innovative approaches to support gun violence prevention measures and make our communities safer by nominating a Champion of Change for Gun Violence Prevention by midnight on Sunday, January 12th. Nominees may include:

    • Community leaders who worked to prevent gun violence and build safer communities.
    • Citizens who encouraged responsible gun ownership.  
    • Advocates who fought for stronger state and federal gun laws.
    • Community leaders who helped to organize grassroots efforts around this issue.
    • Citizens who created innovative tactics to engage the public to reduce gun violence.
    • Community/youth development programs discouraging gun violence and college students’/groups’ efforts on campuses.

    Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose Gun Violence Prevention in the "Theme of Service" field of the nomination form).

    Click here to nominate a Gun Violence Prevention Champion of Change

    We are looking forward to hosting this event and to highlighting the great work communities across the country are doing to advance the health, safety and well-being of the American people.

    Rumana Ahmed is the Executive Assistant to the Director of the Office of Public Engagement.

  • Digital Connectivity Builds Classroom Etiquette

    Misa Gonzales

    Misa Gonzales is being honored as a Connected Educator Champion of Change.

    In the first part of my teaching career I did not have a guaranteed student base. I had to work to fill my classes, and work to keep my students coming back every week. I have kept that philosophy while teaching high school, and the use of technology in my classroom is one of the ways I interest my students in the worlds of reading and writing.

    There are three things that are amplified when technology is used in an effective and efficient way in a classroom: the organization of the classroom, the communication within the classroom, and the community formed in the classroom. Without organization, it becomes chaos and teachers have been searching for years for a way to stay organized, but it never quite works. With a connected technology system, students can save all files, folders, and videos in the cloud and their items are never lost. The dog can never eat the homework, and if he happens to eat the laptop, the homework is still accessible on any other computer or cellphone connected to the internet.

    This ability to seamlessly organize between student and teacher allows for a level of communication in the classroom that has never before been achievable. Through Google Docs a teacher can pull up a student’s essay, and can watch them type. He or she can monitor and adjust the student’s understanding as the student progresses through  a paper, and when a cursor bar stops for an extended amount of time the teacher can check in with the student. Instant feedback through Google tools provides students with the ability to achieve their full potential. Communication through technology has allowed online collaboration between students to expand beyond traditional walls of the classroom.

    The student’s ability to research across the world from cellphones and laptops has produced extensive opportunities to meet and work with other cultures and communities, and an ability to expand beyond the limitations of a traditional textbook. Students are never limited to what the teacher or the district knows, but are instead able to live and learn in a personalized learning environment. And finally, a whole new type of community is built and strengthened when students are guaranteed to have 100% digital connectivity, thus giving them the world at their fingertips, and allowing them to explore new cultures.

    Organization, communication, and community build a bond of respect, trust, honor, and belief in my classroom. I believe in my students, I believe in their futures. I expect my students to walk out of every class with a feeling that they have completed something, a feeling of accomplishment. I will give you the numbers that are the most prominent in my classroom. I have 100% engagement in my room 100% of the time, and with that I also have a 100% turn in rate for all student work, and this is accomplished by 100% digital connectivity for all of our amazing students.

    The technology that we use in my classroom helps to move my students forward at a pace that cannot be reached with the traditional paper and pencil format. My students have the accessibility of the world at their fingertips, and the ability to communicate through digital media like no other generation before them.

    Misa Gonzales is a Freshman English teacher, at Desert View High School, in the Sunnyside School District, in Tucson Arizona. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in Secondary Education, Extended English in 2011.

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