By: Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Higher Achievement CEO
As a DC-based organization, one might imagine that Higher Achievement would have some level of access to the White House. However, that access was limited or non-existent until the Obama Presidency. For the first time in history, our nation’s highest office was held by someone who looked like our scholars and more deeply understood their experiences.
Over the last eight years, Barack and Michelle Obama found ways to connect with and improve the lives of our scholars and thousands of young people like them. More than any president in my lifetime, the Obamas opened the White House to all communities: from motivated middle school students from underserved neighborhoods to grown-up change agents trying to broaden their impact. Every visit to the White House included a very warm welcome, and a connection to the broader network of people and organizations trying to change the world.
Here are our top ten Higher Achievement highlights from the last eight years with the Obama White House:
2009 – Coming Up Taller Award, given by Michelle Obama
2010 – Higher Achievement alumna, Janell Holloway sat with First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union Address
2010 – Mural Painting in Adams Morgan with Michelle Obama, 30+ Congressional Spouses, and Higher Achievement scholars, in collaboration with the Sitar Center
2013 – Viewing of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” with Michelle Obama and Higher Achievement scholars at the White House
2014 – Higher Achievement CEO gives remarks on the organization’s strategic plan in the White House Indian Treaty Room, in connection with the Presidio Institute
2014 – Higher Achievement scholar and mentor from Baltimore visited White House for launch of My Brothers Keeper Initiative
2014 – Amelia Casteneda, Higher Achievement Center Director, named a Latino Educator Champion of Change by the White House
2015 – White House tours for DC and Richmond scholars, and Pittsburgh scholar ambassadors!
2015 – Higher Achievement awarded landmark i3 grant, one of two signature Obama education evidence-based grants ($12 million to support growth and continued evaluation of our program)
2016 – Higher Achievement’s growth featured in White House Summer Opportunity initiative
Each of these moments uplifted our scholars, staff, and supporters. It also reminded us how much our mission matters – not only in our four cities, but nationwide. In 2017, we are more nationally connected and financially equipped (thanks to i3) to broaden our influence than ever before.
Thank you, President and First Lady Obama, for demonstrating excellence in public service, humility, and kindness. Our organization is stronger for it, and we will work our hardest to continue your legacy.