A teacher, a construction worker, a police captain and the creator of a prison education program — all from the Los Angeles area — are among 22 guests who will have close-up views of President Barack Obama when he delivers his State of the Union address today.
Seated in the same box as first lady Michelle Obama during the speech in Washington, D.C., the Southland residents will join fellow honorees including an astronaut, a doctor who worked to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, a former prisoner of the Cuban government and several letter-writers whose stories inspired the president.
They are the latest group to be recognized as part of tradition started by President Ronald Reagan during his State of the Union addresses.
LeDaya Epps, a Compton native who surmounted several life obstacles to graduate as one of just two female construction workers from a union apprenticeship program, is among the group of local residents who will be attending the speech.
Also attending will be Katrice Mubiru, a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher who wrote a letter to the president urging him to support career-technical education for K-12 students.
Mubiru told ABC7 getting to sit in the first lady’s box for the State of the Union address “was like winning a lottery.”
“It’s a great opportunity for me to represent the school and the community,” she said.
The Woodland Hills resident introduced Obama when he spoke at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in July.
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Phillip C. Tingirides is being honored for helping create the Community Safety Partnership program in Watts, a community-based approach to policing that has seen a 50 percent drop in violent crime in recent years.
“It’s not me. It’s an entire group of people, entire group of organizations, entire community working together to make a huge change in violent crime,” Tingirides told ABC7.
Tingirides said he was speechless when he received a call from the White House inviting him to attend the State of the Union address. He will be accompanied by his wife, LAPD Sgt. Emada Tingirides.
“The recognition given by the president of the United States to a community engagement program like CSP, speaks volumes about the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.
“Capt. Phil Tingirides, Sgt. Emada Tingirides and the enthusiastic team that work the Community Safety Partnership have not only reduced crime but also enhanced police-community relations and partnerships.”
The fourth local honoree is 27-year-old Prophet Walker, a Carson resident who served a six-year prison sentence for robbery, and created a prison education program to help fellow inmates obtain two-year college degrees.
After getting out of prison, he studied engineering at Loyola Marymount University and has seen other participants in his program be accepted to universities.
Walker also continued to advocate for lowering recidivism among former inmates by starting Watts United Weekend, an organization that runs weekend camp retreats focused on helping ex-prisoners succeed in life after incarceration.
Walker unsuccessfully sought an Assembly seat in November in the 64th District, which includes Compton and Carson.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti this morning issued a statement about the four L.A. area individuals who will be sitting near the first lady tonight.
“I am proud that the White House is sharing L.A.’s leadership on community and police relations, job training, and job creation through infrastructure projects with the nation. My congratulations to all the invitees for this well-deserved honor.”