More than 200 Latino leaders convened earlier this month in Miami for the White House’s Hispanic Community Action Summit at Miami-Dade College (MDC), a fitting venue for the forum as the nation’s largest community college and one renowned for graduating the largest numbers of both Latino and minority youths.
Eduardo Padrón, MDC president and chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, welcomed business and civic leaders, administrators, educators and students to the daylong session. Padron emphasized the link between America’s economic progress and that of Hispanics, and that, as the fastest-growing community in the U.S., Hispanics must be better prepared to succeed both academically and economically if America is to compete globally.
Jose Rico, the new executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and Julie Rodriguez, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, provided a concise overview of the status of employment, housing, immigration, education, and health care. These presentations provided an excellent foundation for the roundtable discussions that ensued throughout the day.
The roundtable discussions focused on issues important to the Latino community: job creation; immigration reform; high-quality education; the impact of suspension and expulsion on Latino youths; recruitment and retention of K-12 teachers; holistic health programs; funding for Latino students; access to credit; and the status of the local Head Start program; among others. The format spurred engaging conversations and the spontaneous sharing of ideas. I was especially impressed with the abundance of expertise that participants were able to share with their groups. The students, in particular, speaking from their own experience, offered the group a good deal of wisdom. The conversations were effective at airing a range of problems and providing recommendations.
The officials and organizers present throughout the day did an excellent job of moving through the roundtable discussions, providing expertise and content when necessary, and serving to stimulate the conversation. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Participants expressed a desire to continue the collaboration, good will and conversation initiated at the summit.
Modesto E. Abety-Gutierrez is the founding president and CEO of The Children’s Trust and a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.