Innovating for Success: The 2014 National HBCU Week Conference

“Over the next few years, I believe Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will in many respects become more essential, not less so, to meeting our nation’s educational and economic goals,” Secretary Arne Duncan told those gathered at the 2014 National HBCU Week Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary affirmed the necessity and vitality of HBCUs, and pledged to help ensure that all 105 of these unique and historic American institutions continue to thrive.

The annual conference is a forum for HBCU presidents, administrators, students, and stakeholders to meet directly with federal and private sector representatives to discuss strategies for sustained impact in preparing new generations of leaders. This year’s conference – HBCUs: Innovators for Future Success – focused on the community’s efforts to remain at the forefront of educational advancement.

“We, as the current leaders of the black college community, like our predecessors, recognize the great tasks ahead of us. And, like our predecessors, we recognize that not only the future of African-American success, but the future of American and global success, rest on the innovation cultivated at or by black colleges,” said George Cooper, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

Duncan used his keynote address to applaud the remarkable legacy of HBCUs and to reject the notion that HBCUs are no longer necessary in the 21st century.

“[HBCUs] still have an outsize role in preparing students to meet urgent national priorities in STEM fields, in filling teaching jobs, and in uplifting boys and men of color,” said Duncan.

He also noted the critical roles that HBCUs play in extending the reach of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and President Obama’s North Star education goal of again having the world’s highest proportion college graduates. And, he highlighted some of the HBCUs that are leading the way.

“At Hampton University I saw its cutting-edge Proton Therapy Institute for treating cancer. President Harvey’s vision there is remarkable. At Morgan State, under President Wilson’s outstanding leadership, the university formed a groundbreaking partnership with the Universities Space Research Association. Morgan State landed a $28 million contract—its biggest federal contract in history—to develop critical expertise on climate issues and atmospheric science,” Duncan said.

“It’s imperative that we start uplifting boys and men of color, as President Obama is seeking to do. And here again, HBCUs can help show the way,” he added. “I know HBCUs can pioneer innovation and international education.”

After the Secretary’s keynote remarks, he was joined by Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Carrie Hessler-Radelet, director of the Peace Corps, and Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation of Community and National Service. The four updated the audience on a joint effort to encourage public service employers to inform their employees, volunteers and recent graduates about public service opportunities and student loan repayment options and tools – including the CFPB Public Service Toolkit to help teachers and other public servants tackle student debt.

Read the entire speech by Secretary Duncan and be sure follow the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities on Twitter: @WHI_HBCUs.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

ED Seeks Winter/Spring Interns

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Become a part of the team! ED’s 2014 summer interns participated in a brown bag lunch with Secretary Duncan during their time with the department. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Have you ever wondered about pursuing a federal career? Are you interested in public service? Would you like to gain valuable work experience and help move the needle on education issues in this country?

The Department of Education may have opportunities that match your interests – and we’re currently accepting applications for interns!

Our Department is a place where you can explore fields like education policy, research and analysis, intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or traditional and digital communications, all while learning about the role federal government plays in education.

Our interns also participate in professional development sessions and events outside of the office, such as lunches with ED and other government officials, movie nights, and local tours.

One of the many advantages of interning at ED is our proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the Metro.

ED is accepting applications for Winter/Spring 2015 internships through October 1, 2014.

If you are interested in interning during the upcoming term, there are three things you must send in order to be considered for an interview:

  1. A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the field of education, if any. Include which particular offices interest you.  (But, keep in mind that – due to the volume of applications we receive – if we accept you as an intern we may not be able to place you in your first-choice office.)
  2. An updated resumé.
  3. A completed copy of the Intern Application.

Prospective interns should send these three documents in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Winter/Spring Intern Application.

(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel, please see application requirements here.)

An internship at ED is one of the best ways students can learn about education policy and working in the civil service. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose. And, it’s an opportunity to meet fellow students who share your passion for education, learning, and engagement.

Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

ED Accepting Applications for Fall 2014 Internships Through July 15

interns

The Department of Education (ED) is the place where you can explore your interests in education policy research and analysis, or intergovernmental relations and public affairs, or even work with social media while learning about the role Federal Government plays in education.

If the above appeals to you, then an internship at ED may be right for you. Not only will an internship at ED provide an opportunity to learn first-hand about federal education policy while developing a variety of other skills, including writing, researching, communication and time-management skills, but interns also participate in group intern events, such as brownbag lunches with ED officials, movie nights and local tours. One of the many advantages to an ED internship is the proximity to some of the most historic and celebrated sites in our nation’s capital, all accessible by walking or taking the metro.

ED is accepting applications for Fall 2014 through July 15. If you are interested in interning for the upcoming fall term, there are three materials you must send before being considered for an interview:

  1. A cover letter summarizing why you wish to work at ED and stating your previous experiences in the line of education, if any. Include here what particular offices interest you, keeping in mind that due to the volume of applications received, you may not be awarded with your first-choice office upon acceptance.
  2. An updated resume.
  3. A completed copy of the Intern Application.

Once these three documents are finalized, prospective interns should send them in one email to StudentInterns@ed.gov with the subject line formatted as follows: Last Name, First Name: Fall Intern Application.

(Note: For candidates also interested in applying specifically to the Office of General Counsel (OGC), please see application requirements here.)

An internship at ED is one of the best ways a student can learn about education policy and working in the civil service, but it is not limited to this. Your internship at ED is where you will develop crucial workplace skills that will help you in whatever career path you choose, and it is also where you will meet fellow students like yourself, who share your passions for education, learning, and engagement.

Click here for more information or to get started on your application today.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Secretary Duncan Seeks Youth Input During ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ Listening Session

Data shows that some Americans have fewer opportunities available to them and continue to face roadblocks to success. One of these groups is boys and young men of color — regardless of where they come from.

This is why President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach aims to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of all youth, including boys and young men of color.

On May 12, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will host a Youth Listening Session in partnership with the My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce to get input from various youth-serving organizations, youth stakeholders, youth leaders and other young adults.

  • What: My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce Youth Listening Session hosted by Secretary Arne Duncan
  • When: 3:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Monday, May 12
  • Where: Policy Listening Session Webinar

Those unable to participate in the listening sessions should feel free to leave their feedback on the following questions in the comment section on this blog post.

On Track to College and Career

1)         The quality of education is critical for all students, but we know that too many youth, including many boys and young men of color, attend schools that are underperforming.  What would you suggest be the first issue addressed by the MBK Task Force related to improving school and educational quality?

a.         Engaging curriculum tied to real-world problem solving
b.         Professional development to improve teacher quality
c.         Access and support for students to enroll in college-level course work
d.         Increased collaboration between schools, families, and host communities
e.         New school designs such as early college high schools or career academies connected to industry partners
f)         other

Ladders to Jobs-Higher Education

2)         What do you think needs to change in order to increase the rate at which all citizens, including young men of color, persist in and graduate from postsecondary education and training?

a.         Increased levels of college and career readiness
b.         Lower college costs
c.         More financial aid
d.         Clearer guidance on applying to and selecting a college
e.         A culturally relevant educational environment
f.          Clearer, shorter pathways to a high wage career
g.         Other /Not listed

Mentoring and Support Networks

3) What do you think is most valued in a mentoring program by young people, including boys and young men of color?

Criminal Justice/Violent Crime Interaction

4)  What do you think is the predominate factor contributing to disproportionate rates of juvenile/criminal justice system involvement by

boys and young men of color?

a.         Exposure to violence
b.         Violent crime in the community
c.         Lack of exposure to and understanding of potential to obtain success
d.         Lack of education and job skill
e.         Lack of treatment services
f.          Biased law enforcement; and,
g.         Other/Not listed

Ladders to Opportunity – Jobs for Opportunity Youth

5)  Anyone who wants a job should be able to get a job that allows them to support themselves and their families.What do you think is the most important reason that some young people, including young men of color, have challenges in the job market?
a.         Insufficient education
b.         Insufficient skills for jobs in demand
c.         Inadequate connections or networks
d.         Employer stereotypes
e.         Other/Not listed

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education

Give me a break! It’s just a college tour!

Eight years ago, I attended my first college tour thanks to a partnership between the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Howard University’s Alumni Club of Chicago.

“Escape to Mecca” (E2M) is an annual college visit that started 11 years ago.  It has exposed more than 400 Chicago area juniors and seniors to life on Howard’s campus.  The trip is organized by current Howard students originally from the Chicago area. The CPS alumni knew that spring break would be a great time to visit Washington, DC, because students wouldn’t miss valuable class time. Unlike traditional tours, E2M fully thrusts participants into campus life; they live in dorms and dine in cafeterias with their hosts, engage in social events, attend classes, and get the chance to meet a number of administrators.

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First Lady Michelle Obama joins high school students from Chicago for a campus tour at Howard University in Washington, D.C., April 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The most recent group of participants got an extra treat this year when First Lady Michelle Obama met privately with the E2M participants.  I accompanied Mrs. Obama as she toured campus dorms with students and then participated in a discussion about the challenges of attending college, and the importance of finding ways to overcome those challenges while using them as tools to success.  She applauded students for taking ownership of their futures by participating in a trip like E2M and not letting the opportunity go to waste.

“So the fact that you guys have this opportunity to spend a weekend on a college campus and really get a feel for what this experience is going to be like is really a tremendous opportunity that I hope you will take advantage of,” said Mrs. Obama.

As Mrs. Obama said, there are a lot of variables to consider when students and their families navigate the college decision process including: school size, location, student-to-faculty ratios and costs.  More high school students should use their spring and summer breaks to plan visits to institutions of higher learning.  She said, “Contact schools that are of interest to you, plan a visit to the campus, walk inside the dorm, sit in the class, talk to students and meet with the financial aid office.” This allows students and families the flexibility to spend quality time at colleges without interrupting important high school schedules.

The First Lady’s advice resonated with this year’s E2M participants. Though her visit was a major highlight, the best part of the spring break trip was that 27 students accepted admission to Howard University’s Class of 2018.

I can relate to what the seniors felt as they visited classes, slept in dorms, and joined their hosts at campus hangouts. My trip gave me the opportunity to get a feel for what life was going to be like as a college freshman and solidified my decision to attend Howard University.  That spring break changed my life.

As a native of the inner-city of Chicago, I realized that campus brochures and websites weren’t enough for me to fully grasp the reality of college.  It took the physical act of being there—of walking the grounds that so many trailblazers before me walked, of sleeping in the same rooms that were once inhabited by the likes of Thurgood Marshall, and visiting the library where Charles Drew studied—to realize the legacy of the institution and the legacy I wanted to leave for those after me.

I mean let’s face it: if you’re on spring or summer break, you should use the time to plan a campus visit.

Here are tips & tools from ED to get a head start this summer:

College ScorecardIncludes information about a particular college’s cost, its graduation rates and the average amount its students borrow. It is designed to help you compare colleges and choose one that is well-suited to your individual needs.

  • College Affordability and Transparency Center: ED has compiled lists of institutions based on the tuition and fees and net prices (the price of attendance after considering all grant and scholarship aid) charged to students.
  • Federal Student Aid: There are thousands of scholarships, from all kinds of organizations; Federal Student Aid provides tips and resources to help you find scholarships for which you may be eligible.

De’Rell Bonner is a special assistant and youth liaison in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Communications and Outreach