One of several employee resource groups at NBCUniversal is the Black Employee Network (BEN-LA) with members focused on contributing to the community personally and professionally, and helping recruit and retain Black talent at all levels within the company.
During Black History Month, BEN-LA is recognizing local educators making their mark in the community. There are countless noteworthy educators in the region throughout the Southland, and below are just a few who are doing their part to support youth and make a difference.
Chris Smith (Compton, CA) – Performing Arts/Dance, Celerity Achernar Charter School
Chris teaches performing arts and dance at Celerity Achernar Charter School in Compton. In addition, he works with “Amazing Grace” conservatory of South L.A., a NAACP award winning community based non-profit focusing on performing arts training in acting, voice and dance. In 2014, he launched “Ground Breaking Conservatory”, which allows students to continue in the arts of dance and theatre in communities that may not fully offer them.
Career defining moment: “The leadership skills my kids absorbed when they leave me; some have started their own dance clubs at their high schools and even have had offers to perform in movies/television shows. Experiences like these always reminds me that I’m making an impactful difference within their lives.”
Erin Whalen (El Segundo, CA) - Assistant Principal/Co-Founder, Da Vinci RISE High School
Erin is currently the Assistant Principal and co-founder of Da Vinci RISE High in El Segundo, CA. RISE High works directly with students experiencing homelessness, foster care, or probation. It is now a full-fledged education center created to support students when they are most unstable and transient.
Career defining moment: “As assistant principal and cofounder, I’ve had the opportunity of working with my staff to build out an empowering school community serving over 90 students. It has always been a dream to see my student’s perspectives and voices drive change in our world; RISE High is an example of that change.”
Emmery Thompson (Glendale, CA) - Athletic Director/Physical Education, Salem Lutheran School
Emmery has taught and trained children’s sports for the last 15 years. He is currently the Athletic Director and Physical Education teacher at Salem Lutheran School in Glendale. In understanding the importance of positive role models in youth, he utilizes his spare time to sponsor and mentor young athletes.
Career defining moment: “Getting to see my former students excel in sports at the college and professional levels, it’s fun turning on a game on television and knowing I helped influence them to where they are now.”
Angela Rolfe Williams (South Los Angeles, CA) – Resource Specialist Teacher, Tom Bradley Global Awareness Magnet School
Angela has taught Special Education at Tom Bradley Global Awareness Magnet School for the last 23 years, specializing in students with special needs. Angela has made it her mission to help students become successful, develop an internal drive, and feel good about themselves in the academic realm and around peers. She continues to also bridge the gap social gap between the special education and general education communities.
Career defining moment: “Seeing my students being included with their peers, they are able to forgive, give others a second chance, and move on. I was originally taught to “teach” academics, not social skills and life lessons that students will rely on for the rest of their lives.”