Joe Womac, a 2000 graduate of the University of Portland, was recognized in January at the White House as a “Champion of Change.” The Champions of Change program honors “ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities.” Nine leaders in Catholic education from around the country were honored for service to their communities and the nation, and Womac was recognized in part for his work as executive director of the Fulcrum Foundation, based in Seattle, Wash.

Womac has worked with at-risk students as well as Catholic schools in jeopardy of closing. Under his leadership, the Fulcrum Foundation has raised $60 million, which has helped more than 10,000 low-income students attend Catholic schools in western Washington. Womac has played a role in Seattle being among the largest regions in the country that has not closed Catholic schools, but opened new ones during the past decade. Last year, every high school senior supported by the Fulcrum Foundation graduated and of those, 99 percent are now attending college.

“We must find new and innovative ways to preserve and grow all excellent forms of education in America, and I applaud the others honored with the Fulcrum Foundation this week for striving to do just that,” Womac wrote in a Champions for Change blog post. “For millions of American families, preserving the American dream involves preserving Catholic education.”