White House names College Ten alumna a Pacific Islander champion of change

Terisa Tinei Siagatonu

College Ten alum Terisa Tinei Siagatonu tells of working with Pacific Islander high school students in Los Angeles.

Terisa Tinei Siagatonu, (College Ten, '11, community studies) is one of nine Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders and organizations named by the White House as "Champions of Change."

Siagatonu received the award April 5 in Washington D.C. Last fall, the White House launched its “What’s your story?” video challenge to highlight the personal stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country who have had an effect on their communities. Siagatonu's successful video, “When We Speak for Ourselves,” on her work in Los Angeles, was one of more than 200 videos and 35 essays submitted.

Siagatonu is a spoken word artist, arts educator, and community organizer from the Bay Area. She is currently project director for PIER: the Pacific Islander Education and Retention project at UCLA, a project to combat low matriculation rates of Pacific Islander students into higher education. It offers free tutoring, mentorship, and peer advising to Pacific Islander high school students in Los Angeles.

She has worked as a poet mentor with Youth Speaks, the leading nonprofit organization for spoken word performance and literary arts education in the country, as well as with grassroots groups such as One Love Oceania, a queer Pacific Islander women’s organization from the Bay Area, the Samoan Community Development Center of San Francisco, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities of Los Angeles, and Engaging Education at UCSC.

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of "champions," ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they do to serve and strengthen their communities