Four Southern Californians who have worked to improve their communities will be guests of First Lady Michelle Obama Tuesday night during President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.
The guests, who usually symbolize key points of the speech, will sit in a box with the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President.
LAPD Capt. Phillip C. Tingirides, Irvine
Capt. Phil Tingirides of the Los Angeles Police Department, has worked with the Community Safety Partnership since its beginning in 2011. The program is designed to build partnerships between the south Los Angeles community of Watts and the LAPD. The 34-year LAPD veteran and his wife, LAPD Sgt. Emada Tingirides, encourage discussion at community meetings through the program in neighborhoods that have historically harbored distrust of law enforcement.
The Tingirides boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Washington Monday morning.
"Since that program started, it's now been over three years," said. Capt. Tingirides. "We were averaging seven or so homicides a year in those developments. We've had five in three years."
Sgt. Tingirides said the program's inclusion in the speech highlights community policing "at a time when there's so much negativity and distrust of law enforcement."
Prophet Walker, Carson
Prophet Walker has worked with Tingirides in Watts to further collaboration between residents and police, but his path to becoming a bridge builder included a six-year prison sentence after an altercation that led to a charge of assault causing great bodily injury. In prison Walker started a prison program that provided inmates with an opportunity to earn a two-year degree. After he was released, Walker attended Loyola Marymount University's school of Engineering -- he is one of about 100 ex-inmates who went on to attend universities after completing the prison program. He now works as a construction engineer, but also saves time to work with InsideOUT Writers, teaching juvenile offenders to express themselves by writing.
LeDaya Epps, Compton
LeDaya Epps is a lifelong Los Angeles resident who was born in Compton and raised in the foster care system. After graduating from high school, she had trouble finding a stable job, so Epps took on a union apprenticeship in construction. She was one of only two women to finish the program and now works on the crew building the new Crenshaw/LAX light rail line. She lives in Compton with her three children, ages 15, 11 and 3.
Katrice Mubiru, Woodland Heights
A strong supporter of technical education's potential to change lives, Katrice Mubiru is a career technical education teacher who wrote a letter to President Obama to tell him about her experiences and those of her students. Mubiru met the President in July when he visited Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. She is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach.