Debra Watkins spent 37 years in the East Side Union High School District in San Jose, CA, as a teacher, counselor and project manager before retiring in 2012. During that same time period, she was a founding member of the Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators and served as president from 1994-2001.
In 2001, she founded the California Alliance of African American Educators and the Dr. Frank S. Greene Scholars Program. Named after an African American scientist who helped pave the way for today’s computers, the Greene Scholars Program sends 100% of its students to college. Ninety percent of the students graduate in four years with bachelor’s degrees, and 60% of those are in STEM, which is about eight times the national average for Black students.
In 2015, she was one of the founders of Black Students of California United, and she still serves on that board.
In 2017, Debra officially changed the name of the California Alliance of African American Educators to A Black Education Network. She serves as the alliance’s Executive Director.
Also in 2017, Debra spun off the Greene Scholars Program as its own 501(c)3 organization and selected Dr. Ayodele Thomas to serve as its first Executive Director. Dr. Thomas is the first Black woman to earn her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University, and that was in 2005.
Debra has served on countless local, statewide and national committees and has garnered many awards for her laser-like focus on Black academic and cultural excellence.