White House Officials Arne Duncan and David Johns Tout STEM Advocacy at University of Maryland

David J. Johns, executive director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has become a leader in STEM education. In 2013, 41% of the bachelor’s degrees earned at UMBC were in STEM fields, well above the national average of 25%. Highlighting that fact, two key White House officials met March 10 with university leaders and students.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and David J. Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, visited the university and its science labs and participated in a roundtable discussion along with representatives and students from the Choice Program.

Using a community-based, family-centered, case management approach to delinquency prevention and youth development, the Choice Program seeks to provide support in at-risk environments.  A not-for-profit organization, it is administered by The Shriver Center at UMBC. The Shriver Center strives to engage the strengths and resources of higher education in finding creative solutions to some of the most urgent social challenges.

President Obama recently announced a new initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, specifically aimed at creating pathways to success for men and boys of color, which builds off existing successful concepts like the UMBC’s Choice Program. This new initiative will bring foundations and companies together help find solutions to keep these young men in school and out of the criminal justice system, and improve their employment opportunities.

Appointed as executive director White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African American by Duncan in 2013, Johns is charged with identifying evidence-based best practices to improve African American student achievement—from cradle to career. The mission of this initiative is to work across federal agencies and with partners and communities nationwide to produce a more effective continuum of education programs for African American students.

David’s expertise has been critical in helping to address the academic challenges that many African American students face, according to Duncan.  He also notes Johns’ wealth of knowledge and passion is critical in helping the Department ensure that all children are college and career ready.

The Departments of Education and Justice recently released the school discipline guidance, which serves as a powerful example of the kinds of actions the federal government can take and the resources it can provide to bolster outcomes and reduce disparities for at-risk students.

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