Angeles LaRose Patricia Echols was born January 11, 1957, in Memphis, Tennessee, to Will Eva Harmon Echols and J.D. Echols. Echols attended Georgia Elementary School, Hamilton Middle School, and graduated from Hamilton High School in 1975. A singer actress, model, and dancer, Echols, who performed in Erma Clayton’s An Evening of Soul review in Memphis, was awarded $5,000 by Willard Straight Hall to produce the show for Cornell University. Echols earned her B.A. degree in psychology from Cornell University in 1979, and also completed a one-year graduate program at Cornell in Arts and Sciences. At the time of her interview, Echols was preparing for a Ph.D. program in Education and Child Development and Human Development.
From 1980 to 1989, Echols worked in a variety of social service and educational programs that included the Harvard University Upward Bound Program; Alexander Berger Junior High School #139 in Bronx, New York; Holy Name Multipurpose Center, Memphis; and Hale House, New York City. During that time period, Echols also landed acting and modeling jobs. In 1987, Echols was cast in the off Broadway production of Staggerlee; in 1989, she moved to Los Angeles and was cast in the film She Knows Too Much, and became artistic program director of the Parks Arts Program in Pasadena, California. That same year, Echols began tutoring two children after school in her own apartment. As her program began to grow, Echols founded Educating Young Minds (EYM). From 1990 to 1994, Echols taught math and English at Trinity Lutheran School in Los Angeles, and film history at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga. In 1994, Echols made EYM her full-time work; working cooperatively with the Los Angeles Unified School District, EYM eventually would provide an attractive learning environment for 350 inner city youth, from kindergarten through high school.
Echols has been the recipient of numerous honors. In 2003, Echols was selected as part of the President’s Council of Cornell Women. Echols received the 2003 PRISM Award in education from Minorities in Business magazine; KTLA’s “Unsung Heroes Award”; ACT 1’s Angel of Education Award; Crenshaw Christian Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award; Oscar Joel Bryant’s Community Humanitarian Award; the Jackie Robinson and United Way’s Community Service Awards. Other awards from Yvonne Braithwaite-Burke, the City of Los Angeles, the California State Assembly and the United States Senate speak to the community support of Echols and EYM. In 2005, Echols portrayed the title character in Sojourner, a play about 19th century black activist Sojourner Truth.