Recognizing College Opportunity Champions of Change

ByStefani Jones

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October 1 is the first opportunity for students to submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2017-2018 school year. This week, the White House is announcing changes to this year’s process and previewing new tools that will ensure students are provided with timely information to access financial aid to attend a good-value school.

On Friday, eleven individuals from across the country will be honored at the White House on Friday as “Champions of Change for College Opportunity” who have done important work in their own communities to strengthen access to high-quality education.

These individuals were selected by the White House for their leadership and tireless work to expand opportunity for students from all backgrounds to advance to and through college. These leaders know, like President Obama, that expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college is necessary to strong communities and a strong economy. This is especially true for disadvantaged students and those in low-income households.

Over the last seven and a half years, the President has made historic progress on college opportunity – doubling investments in college scholarships through Pell Grants and tax credits, simplifying the free application for federal student aid, calling on Congress to keep student loans affordable by keeping interest rates low, creating better debt repayment options like the President’s Pay as You Earn plan, and promoting innovation and competition to bring down college costs and improve the quality of education.

Through the President and First Lady’s Call-to-Action on College Opportunity since 2014, hundreds of schools, nonprofits, foundations, businesses, counselors, and other organizations have reported that they have already helped students access more than $5 billion in financial aid, enrolling 1 million more students in college, and setting 10 million more students on track to complete on time within the decade.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live streamed on the White House website at on Friday, September 30, at 9:00 AM ET. Follow the conversation at #WHChamps and #CollegeOpportunity.

Here are the individuals who will be recognized at the White House on Friday:

Kim Cook – Washington, District of Columbia

Kim Cook is the Executive Director of the National College Access Network, where she leads its efforts to help states, nonprofit organizations, schools, higher education institutions, philanthropists, and the business community provide better college access and persistence support to low-income and underrepresented students. She has worked in the higher education and college access field for her entire professional career, including experience in undergraduate admissions, administration of a last-dollar scholarship program, and a succession of responsibilities at NCAN. As a Pell Grant recipient herself, she has a passion for the success of students underrepresented in higher education. Kim holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Pace University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Law, Economics and Government from The American University.

Pam Eddinger – Boston, Massachusetts

Pam Eddinger, PhD, is the president of Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) in Boston. BHCC is an urban 2-year public institution serving 19,000 learners annually. With 95% of entering students testing below college level in math and 45% in English, the College is scaling up reforms in developmental education to ensure retention and on-time completion. Compression and acceleration strategies for math and English take students to college level work in a year. Companion programs such as career-focused early college pathways and intensive Learn and Earn internship programs add to the overall retention/completion strategy. The Massachusetts community colleges educate one out of two undergraduates in the Commonwealth. In light of the workforce development needs in the next decade, the increase in retention and degree completion of BHCC students, and their placement into high-wage, middle-skills jobs will be critical to the growth of the local economy.

Michael T. Holmes – New Rochelle, New York

Michael T. Holmes serves as Chief Operating Officer for INROADS Inc., whose mission is to develop and place talented underserved college youth in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership. Founded in Chicago in 1970, INROADS has positively impacted the lives of over 200,000 culturally diverse high school and college students. Michael previously worked in college admissions, financial aid, campus recruiting and talent development, and has mentored, coached and provided college, career and personal advice to young people in communities throughout the nation. Michael has also held Board of Director roles within the Danbury NAACP, Young Life and Danbury Pathways Mentoring Programs and has also conducted numerous workshops and been a motivational speaker for Junior Achievement, A Better Chance, Urban League, The Hord Foundation and SayYes Danbury.

Dana A. Hubbard – Springfield, Virginia

Dana A. Hubbard serves as the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) Coordinator at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia. The AVID program works to help students in the middle become college and career ready and provide them with the necessary skills to achieve academic success. In her six years as AVID coordinator she has helped to double the size of the program and has created a program that welcomes all students and motivates them to follow their dreams of going to college. In the last three years, 100% of the graduating AVID seniors have gained admittance to and enrolled in college, and all are on track to graduate on time. Dana also teaches Biology and serves as the Head Field Hockey coach at West Potomac High School.

Nicole Hurd – Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Nicole Hurd, PhD is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the College Advising Corps (CAC), headquartered in Chapel Hill. Nicole has led CAC from a pilot project in Virginia to the largest college access program in the country, placing hundreds of near peer advisers in high schools from coast-to-coast. In the 2016-2017 school year, CAC’s 600 advisers will assist over 180,000 low-income, first generation, and underrepresented students in navigating the path to college. Under her leadership, CAC has launched innovative virtual advising work and has received numerous accolades, including a $10 million investment which was announced at the White House College Opportunity Summit and the 2012 National Service Impact Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas – Newark, New Jersey

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas is a recent college graduate and the Founder and Executive Director of SHE Wins Inc., a Newark-based leadership program for girls ages 10-15 years old who have been affected by violence. Before founding SHE Wins, A’Dorian designed and co-facilitated “SSEP”, a free SAT preparation and self-empowerment program that served students from over fifteen different high schools in the Newark area. A’Dorian’s organization has provided mentorship, academic, and emotional supports for nearly 50 girls, and has impacted the lives of nearly 1,000 people in the city of Newark through community service projects. The SHE Wins college readiness track also allows scholars to participate in coding programs that increase exposure to STEM fields, attend national leadership conferences, visit college campuses, and enroll in the SHE Wins after-school program. A’Dorian is a 2016 graduate of Swarthmore College and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Educational Studies. She is also an alumna of the KIPP: TEAM Academy in Newark and the Northfield Mount Hermon School.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley – Long Beach, California

Eloy Ortiz Oakley has served as President of Long Beach City College for nearly 10 years and is the co-founder of the nationally-recognized Long Beach College Promise. He serves as the co-chair of the Education Leadership Committee of the College Promise Campaign. Earlier this year he was selected as Chancellor of the California Community Colleges and will begin the role in December. He has been actively working with leaders in California to establish the California College Promise. In 2014, Eloy was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the University of California Board of Regents. He is a product of a California community college.

Jin Park – Flushing, New York

Jin Park is the founder and director of HigherDreams and a junior at Harvard University. As a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient applying to college, Jin experienced the daunting challenges that many undocumented students face while applying to and funding their college education. Driven by his experiences, Jin founded HigherDreams, a nonprofit that seeks to help the 65,000 undocumented high school graduates reach their potential. HigherDreams has worked to consolidate resources for applying to college from the perspective of an undocumented student, and is currently doing direct outreach to high schools in Boston and NYC to make higher education more accessible for low-income and undocumented students. At Harvard, Jin is the campus coordinator of the “Define American” movement, which seeks to elevate the conversation surrounding immigration through storytelling, and also directs Harvard’s “Chinatown Citizenship,” a naturalization assistance program for immigrants in the greater Boston area.

Daniel R. Porterfield– Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D. has served as president of Franklin & Marshall College since 2011. Under his leadership, Franklin & Marshall has developed a distinctive student talent strategy built upon a significant increase in their need-based financial aid budget. Through his work, Franklin & Marshall has seen record application numbers and an increase in the academic profile, diversity, and selectivity of incoming classes. In addition, lower-income and first-generation students at F&M consistently achieve the same average GPA as the student body as a whole and maintaining higher retention and graduation rates. Porterfield sits on the boards of the College Board and the Lenfest College Scholarship Foundation. He has received awards for his work from the KIPP and “I Have A Dream” foundations and in 2016 was named one of the “Sixteen Most Innovative People in Higher Education” by Washington Monthly. Prior to leading Franklin & Marshall, Porterfield served as a Senior Vice President at his alma mater, Georgetown University. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and earned his Ph.D. at The City University of New York Graduate Center.

Juliette Price – Albany, New York

Juliette serves as the director of The Albany Promise, a cross-sector collective impact partnership in Albany, NY that facilitates the improvement of educational outcomes for the city’s most vulnerable students using a shared vision, collective action, and rigorous continuous improvement. The partnership focuses its efforts on six key outcome areas including kindergarten readiness, third grade reading, eighth grade math, high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment, and post-secondary completion, and is a part of the national StriveTogether network of cities across the nation leading the field of collective impact. The Albany Promise convenes over 100 institutions to engage in systems change to create a new civic infrastructure to best serve children and families, with a special focus on eliminating racial disparities.

Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell – Atlanta, Georgia

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. is the 10th president of Spelman College. Dr. Campbell previously served as the Dean of the Tisch School of Arts at NYU for two decades. As president, Dr. Campbell leads an institution that is a global leader in the education of women of African descent, with more than 2,100 students from 41 states and 15 foreign countries and with a graduation rate of 76%. Over 79% of Spelman students receive financial aid and nearly half of enrolled students receive Pell Grants. Spelman is also leading work examining innovative strategies that may positively impact student learning as a 2015 U.S. Department of Education First in the World grantee.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the cancellation of the President’s event at Annandale High School and a change in time for the Champions of Change event. The Champions of Change event will take place at 9:00 AM ET on Friday, September 30. The event will be live streamed on the White House website at