Five California Asian American women recognized by White House as “Champions of Change”

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

(Photo Credit: Trevor McGoldrick)

For most people, to be acknowledged once in a while by your boss, or even your colleagues, is affirmation that what you’re doing matters and counts. So when the White House calls you, you know you’re doing something special.

Such is the case for 15 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) nationally who were recognized by the White House as “Champions of Change.”

As part of the White House’s observance of AAPI Heritage month, these Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women are being honored for their extraordinary work creating a more equal, safe and prosperous future for their communities and their country.

“These fifteen women represent the strength and diversity of the AAPI community. These leaders–in business, advocacy, philanthropy, the arts and academia—are wonderful examples for young women across the country,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Five of the 15 honorees are from California. Van Ton-Quinlivan, Vice-Chancellor of workforce and economic development of the California Community College system, is one of them. She got word about it two weeks ago after a colleague from another agency, nominated her. .

“It’s great to see the diversity and range in which these women operate—from social issues to institutional issues—it’s good to see that people are having impact in ways that are meaningful to them and to their communities,” said Ton-Quinlivan.

“I am honored by the recognition because it’s affirmation that others are noticing the hard work that we are doing in the California Community College system. It’s great!”

The vice-chancellor has been logging in countless hours, the past year, traveling up and down the state, to work with the system’s 112 community colleges to prepare the state’s workforce for jobs available now. Her work to transform the country’s largest higher education system is done through Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy.

“Our state is in the mood to galvanize and do what it takes to stand up our economy. I am honored by this recognition but it is really collective effort of those in our system and those whom we partner with that enables our progress,” said Ton-Quinlivan.

Members of California Forward were first introduced to Ton-Quinlivan during the first ever California Economic Summit held last year. Members have gotten to know her, through her work with the summit’s Workforce Action Team.

The other California honorees are:

  •          Ming Dang, Berkley: Executive Director, Don’t Sell Bodies, advocates on behalf of survivors of modern day slavery.
  •          Catherine Eusebio, Fremont: Social Justice Fellow, Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, working with immigrant youth.
  •          Mia Mingus, Oakland: Writer/Organizer working for disability justice and transformative justice to end child sexual abuse.
  •          Natalie Nakase, Los Angeles: First Asian American player, National Woman’s Basketball League, current video coordinator intern for the L.A. Clippers

The remaining national honorees are: Lusiana Tuga Hansen of Anchorage, AK; Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, Washington; Arline Loh of Wilmington, Delaware; Mary Frances Oneha of Waimanalo, Hawaii; Karen Suyemoto of Boston, Massachusetts; Nancy Tom of Chicago, Illinois; and Shireen Zaman of Washington, D.C.

“The White House celebrating the accomplishments of these amazing Asian American women leaders demonstrates how the administration is taking steps in the right direction to acknowledge the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, whom are often seen as invisible by mainstream America. This is especially timely as demographic changes in the U.S. continue to be a hot topic on the news and in politics,” said Melany de la Cruz, Assistant Director of UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans-individuals, businesses and organizations-who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

The women will be honored during a ceremony, at the White House, on May 6th. You can watch the event live.

You can bet, for these women, the work doesn’t stop here. It’s just motivation to continue working for their causes.

“It’s all hands on deck” to help California, once again, become a booming and thriving state, said Ton-Quinlivan.  

Congratulations to all of the honorees!


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza