Ayana Richardson represent the Baldwin Promise at the White House

BALDWIN — Ayana Richardson, who spent the past six years as executive director of the Baldwin College Access Center and Promise Zone, was among thousands gathered at a recent event, South by South Lawn, a White House Festival of Ideas, Art and Action, geared to celebrate the spirit of innovation.

Starbucks was invited to participate and set up a booth at the event because of the recent “Upstanders” series. Five of 10 stories were chosen for the event, including, “Scholarships for Every Student,” represented by Richardson.

The Starbucks Upstanders booth encouraged attendees to record and share their own story to be considered for the next season of the Starbucks “Upstanders” series.

Richardson said she helped run the Upstanders booth and got to interact with people, hear their stories of innovation and work to transform social issues.

“It was exciting to see the variety of work people are doing. So many different ideas were represented,” she said. “It was a festival-type celebration, but it gave attendees a lot to think about and a chance to look at social issues, individually. If we come together we can move forward and solve these social issues.”

Richardson said even though she was there only in Washington one day, she gleaned much from the event.

“It was an awesome opportunity to meet others from the “Upstanders” stories in person,” she said. “At the end of the day we are all just trying to make a difference in our communities and impact the world as a whole.”

The event included different interactive displays on the lawn as well as panel discussions, music and artists, food vendors and a film festival, Richardson said.

“We had a tour of the White House. In the evening we all got to see a live conversation between President Obama and Leonardo DeCaprio,” she said. “I can’t begin to explain how it felt to be there, for me to see the president. That was an honor in itself. There were so many other people at the event doing a great work and being encouraged by the president.”

Richardson said the fact Baldwin was named among important cities represented by “Upstanders,” such as Dallas, Memphis, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. was something special.

“Starbucks saw something special in Baldwin and that says a lot. I consider the Baldwin Promise my baby, and it makes me feel really good inside,” she said. “The scholarship is a great tool and resource we need to make sure we utilize. If you look at the historical data from before the Promise was launched, you can see our efforts are going in the right direction.”