by Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA

Los Angeles, CA – August 28, 2023

Entrepreneur Educational Center, Inc.’s Entrepreneur Program Class of 2023 are (left, rear) JAMES BLACK, PATRICK TATE, KEENYA WALKER, SHANNON CLAY, ROBERT AVERY along with (left, front) RAMONA ROBERTS, TINA NEAL, TIERREA HAYES and ANDRE JOSEPH.
Photo: Valerie Vines Photography

In a testament to the soaring global entrepreneurial trend, the world has witnessed a remarkable surge in the number of entrepreneurs in the last few years, and this growth has been mirrored in the dynamic landscape of Los Angeles County. The Entrepreneur Educational Center, Inc. (EECI), a pioneering 501(c)3 nonprofit organization led by the visionary Executive Director Barbara J. Stanton, has once again proven its commitment to fostering innovation and change. The heart of Los Angeles recently celebrated the graduation of determined Black and Brown entrepreneurs from EECI’s Class of 2023, marking a pivotal moment in the city’s drive for diversity and empowerment.

“I am proud to present this year’s graduates. For the first time in history, EECI had two programs operating simultaneously in two different fields. Our Entrepreneur Program produced nonprofits and for profits organization that are essential to the community needs,” said Stanton. “The launch of our Divers Program with the support of AltaSea is first-of-its kind in the South Los Angeles area. The importance of this program provided a level playing field for our community to qualify and compete in a field that is typically not available nor offered.”


(Alphabetical Order)

The American Cleanup Project

The Black Family Legacy Center

SC Athletics

S.T.E.P.P Housing

Young Gentlemen Foundation

Sankofa Limousine Services

Tina’s Transitional Haven House

Life Savers Academy

Rib’It Barbeque

Jesus Walks Resource Center


(Alphabetical Order)

A Night of Celebration and Inspiration

The commencement ceremony, held at the elegant L’Cheriyve Studio in Gardena, was a night of inspiration and celebration. The lineup of entertainment was nothing short of extraordinary, featuring the captivating R&B artist and entrepreneur, Michel’le. The enchanting melodies of multi-talented Harpist Maia enthralled the audience, while Del Atkins and The LYFE Band provided a live energy-packed performance. DJ Hippie kept the spirits high with a selection of hits, making the evening an unforgettable experience for all attendees which included the former Congresswoman and U.S. Ambassador Diane E. Watson, City of Los Angeles Councilman Curren Price and his wife Del Price, and Captain Dr. Gerald A. Higginbotham, the president of Captain’s Millionaires, Inc.

The graduates received certificates of recognition from several elected officials including Los Angeles County Supervisor 2nd District Holly J. Mitchell and State Senator Steven Bradford representing the 35th district.

R&B Singer Michel’le performed at the EECI Commencement Ceremony and shared a few words of encouragement
to the new entrepreneurs. Courtesy Photo.

Michel’le, a prominent figure in the music industry and an advocate for empowerment, was previously honored with the Legendary Songstress Award at The Females of Hip Hop Awards. She graced the stage to acknowledge the new graduates: “To be an entrepreneur takes more than having a desire to accomplish goals in life. It takes willpower, strength, and courage,” said Michel’le whose songs contributed to the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop. “You students have displayed that and will inspire others to do so. God bless you all in your journey going forward.”

Changing the Entrepreneurial Landscape

Under the guidance of Stanton, EECI has been unwavering in its mission to redefine the narrative of entrepreneurship. With a determination to empower underrepresented communities, EECI aims to break down the barriers that have kept entrepreneurship largely within the confines of certain racial groups. Stanton’s mission to address the disparity in entrepreneurship is evident from the statistics in the United States, where 84.7% of entrepreneurs belong to the white population, while Black women own a mere 2.5% of small businesses. Through initiatives like the Miracle’s Entrepreneur Program and the Scuba Diving Program, EECI is providing the tools and opportunities needed for Black and Brown individuals to carve their space in the business and oceanic world.

Innovative Diversification

The Class of 2023 is a remarkable group of individuals ranging in age from 30 to 60, showcasing that entrepreneurship knows no age limits. Hailing from the Los Angeles County 2nd District, these visionary graduates have committed themselves to either becoming certified scuba divers or establishing enterprises that serve their communities. The programs not only cultivate business acumen but also offer vital life skills.

The groundbreaking Scuba Diving Program, established by Stanton and led by Gerald Durant, a distinguished LA City Fire Department Dive Master of Recovery, has introduced a new dimension to the EECI’s mission. This initiative not only equips individuals with a unique skill but also opens doors to career prospects within the maritime sector, particularly focusing on the Port of Los Angeles. The partnership with AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles adds a layer of support, making the endeavor even more impactful.

The Certificated Scuba Diver Program students are trained by Gerald Durant, LA City Fire Department Dive Master of Recovery. Photo by Valerie Vines Photography.

Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship

Headquartered in South Central Los Angeles, EECI stands as a beacon of hope and empowerment for aspiring entrepreneurs from all walks of life. By offering comprehensive training, resources, and mentorship, EECI ensures that every individual, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to create positive change within their communities.

As the entrepreneurial landscape continues to evolve, EECI’s Class of 2023 serves as a testament to the power of determination, innovation, and collaboration. Through their hard work and dedication, these graduates are poised to leave an indelible mark on their communities and the broader Los Angeles County, reshaping the future of entrepreneurship for the better.

For more information about EECI and their programs, please contact EECI at or call (323) 757-7506.


Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA is a global media director and owner of Platinum Star Public Relations and Platinum Star Media Group based in Glendale, CA. Find her on IMDB or Instagram @platinumstarpr