By Denny Han

Long Beach City College President Eloy Otiz Oakley’s achievements in co-pioneering the Long Beach College Promise program responsible for providing thousands of LBUSD students with opportunity were celebrated by President Barack Obama’s administration at the White House in Washington D.C., Friday, Sept. 30 at 6 a.m. PDT as part of the “Champions of Change for College Opportunity” event alongside ten other honorees, among which Oakley was the only attendant from the west coast. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to represent the work of Long Beach”, he said.

And in being hailed as “Champions of Change”, the event featured a panel discussion with the honorees concerning the future and evolution of public education. Topics ranged from the importance of public policy and socio-economic community outreach, to emphasizing the importance of college earlier on in grade school, as well as revamping the FAFSA application for better accessibility.

“It’s certainly a high point in my career”, Oakley reflected. “A great exclamation point on the work that I’ve been involved with, with [LBUSD superintendent] Chris Steinhauser, President Jane Conoley at Long Beach State, Mayor Garcia, and others. It’s certainly a moment that I’ll always look back on, something that I feel was special and I feel blessed to be a part of.”

Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to Barack Obama and founder of the Champions of Change program, lauded the honorees as “ordinary people doing extraordinary things”.

The Promise program has been met with success since its implementation in 2008 and its influence continues to spread to Los Angeles and various other parts of California. Oakley however, says that there is still work needed to be done: “While I appreciate the recognition we got today, we still have communities in Long Beach where kids aren’t getting to college, so we still have a lot of work to do.”

In addition to enhancing the College Promise program, Oakley plans on addressing issues of social and economic justice in his soon-to-be role as chancellor of California community college system.

When reflecting upon his nomination of the honor, President Oakley said, “Although I was picked to receive the honor, I wouldn’t be here today if not for the great work of Long Beach Unified, Cal State Long Beach, and all of the great people and staff at Long Beach City College. So I think it’s just a greater reflection on Long Beach as a whole, and I hope that the work we do in Long Beach continues to spread throughout the state and throughout the nation.”

Video of the conference may be viewed here