During a visit to Los Angeles last week, Secretary Duncan and a handful of celebrities challenged an energetic group of Latino students to change their community by doing two things: going to college and becoming teachers.
The roundtable discussion at Edward A. Roybal Learning Center included a star-powered panel of education advocates: boxing great Oscar De La Hoya; Grammy-award-winner John Legend; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, several classroom teachers, and Arne.
Duncan stressed the importance of recruiting Latino teachers to educate the most rapidly growing demographic in our nation’s public schools. Mayor Villaraigosa shared that more than 70 percent of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s students are Latino, yet fewer than 25 percent of the district’s teachers are of Latino descent.
Duncan argued that Latinos who are concerned about social justice should view education as the single greatest civil rights issue of our time. De La Hoya, a product of East Los Angeles, shared a powerful story of his high school government teacher, Mr. Benson, who changed his life forever and provided him the strength, confidence and encouragement to persevere and become a gold medal Olympian and prizefighter.
As the discussion about the teaching profession concluded and the moderator fielded questions from the audience of primarily Latino high school students, the tone of the conversation shifted. Students cried out for access to higher education so frequently that it emerged as the central theme. They asked very thoughtful, critical questions to Secretary Duncan about the DREAM Act, PELL grants, and making college more accessible to students like them.
As a Latino male and an educator, I am highly encouraged by the Obama administration’s dedication to recruiting more Latinos to the teaching profession. As the Hispanic population in our nation continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, the future of our nation will depend on how effective we are in educating these students. Mi gente, our time is NOW. Change your community: TEACH!