Dina Walker has over 20 years of experience working with educational, government, and community organizations. As president and CEO of BLU Educational Foundation, she leads a team thatProfiles in Education Equity logo provides educational and human services programming to youth, adults, and organizations to build healthy, productive communities in California’s Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernadino counties). Now, through BLU’s Institute for Civic Engagement, a leadership pipeline to help those who have historically lacked representation, she is teaching a new generation how to be change-makers.

Define how you advance education equity in California.

Information, leadership, partnerships, and love. I start with data and information to know how and where my leadership can be utilized for success. The key to this is leveraging leadership already in the field. We work alongside statewide agencies (Ed Trust-West, Campaign for College Opportunity, and College Futures Foundation), and our state representatives to introduce and support education legislation that impacts equity for the masses. Locally, I ensure that we sustain purposeful partnerships that are guided by mission and impact alignment and centered on the love of our students and community.

Share one big success from your work to date and how you measured success.

Our biggest success has been to push FAFSA/Dream Act Completion for all students in California. After working for years locally to increase FAFSA completion, we had this bold notion and partnered with our assemblyperson, Eloise Reyes, to pass financial aid bill AB 2015. Although the bill wasn’t what we initially had proposed, it nonetheless was our first legislative win toward the importance of FAFSA/Dream Act Completion in schools. I measure success by how we can increase awareness of education justice issues for the most marginalized communities and whether our work actually reaches and positively impacts a student’s success.

What (or who) motivates you to advocate for education equity?

What motivates me every day to advocate for educational equity is the data, but most importantly for me are the stories of success from our students and parents when they were given access, opportunity, and support.

What’s your favorite quote? Why?

“You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people.” ― Cornel West

This quote resonates with me because I come from a proud family that has been involved in service for as long as I can remember. It also centers this work in a spiritual background of Love. I grew up serving in my church, school, and community. It reminds me that a good leader is also one who can serve. I know that I am a better leader because at my core, I am always in service, and in love of others, NOT myself.

What’s next regarding your work?

I am working to actively build a pathway and pipeline of education advocates and community leaders from the communities where they live. I am an example of the long-term cultivation of leadership through informal and formal methods. Conversely, most people come to advocacy by happenstance. Think about what would happen if people had a deliberate plan for leadership, a peer group, and learned early about systems change work! We could move our education equity at a faster and more impactful pace. This is what’s next for my work — building that pipeline.