Rethinking High School: President Obama Announces New Youth CareerConnect Grants

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

“How do we start making high school … more interesting, more exciting, more relevant to young people?”

That’s the idea behind the Youth CareerConnect grant program, which President Obama discussed this morning during his visit to Bladensburg High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In his remarks, the President announced that Bladensburg High was part of a three-school team in Prince George’s County that won a $7 million Youth CareerConnect grant.

The grant will give students at Bladensburg High access to individualized college and career counseling, as well as paid work experiences with employer partners such as Lockheed Martin. What’s more, students concentrating in health professions will be able to earn industry-recognized certifications in nursing and pharmacy, and biomedical students will be able to earn college credit from the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

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President Barack Obama meets with students working in a biomedical sciences classroom at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, April 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

All told, the grant will help prepare 2,500 students at Bladensburg High and other Prince George’s County schools to succeed academically and graduate career-ready in the high-demand fields of information technology and health care.

Youth CareerConnect is a national competition, backed by the Departments of Education and Labor, to start redesigning America’s high schools for the 21st century economy. The program is offering $107 million in new grants — ranging from $2.2 million to $7 million — to local partnerships of local education agencies, workforce investment boards, institutions of higher education, and employer partners.

We challenged America’s high schools to … say what can you do to make sure your students learn the skills that businesses are looking for in high-demand fields. And we asked high schools to develop partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on real-life applications for the fields of the future — fields like science and technology and engineering and math.

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with the students on stage following remarks and announcing the winners of the Youth CareerConnect Competition, at Bladensburg High School in Bladensburg, Maryland, April 7, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As President Obama explained, these grants will help ensure that more of America’s youth receive a world-class education, which will prepare them “with the skills they need for college, for a career, and for a lifetime of citizenship.”

“From preschool for every 4-year-old in America, to higher education for everybody who wants to go, every young person deserves a fair shot,” said the President. “And I’m going to keep on doing everything I can to make sure you get that shot and to keep America a place where you can make it if you try.”

To learn more about the Youth CareerConnect program, click here.

David Hudson is associate director of content for the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy

The White House Hosts Its First-Ever Student Film Festival

Film Fest

President Barack Obama speaks with students in the State Dining Room prior to the White House Student Film Festival in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Back in November, we asked K-12 students across the country to create short films on the role that technology plays in their classrooms. We asked them to tell us why technology is so important, and how it will change the educational experience for kids in the future.

And they responded with nearly 3,000 films.

Today, in collaboration with the American Film Institute, we hosted more than a dozen of the young filmmakers at the first-ever White House Student Film Festival, where we presented our 16 official selections. Special guests included Kal Penn, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, along with Conan O’Brien who addressed the students by video.

To kick things off, President Obama addressed the attendees and told the young filmmakers how great their movies were:

[I]n my official capacity as President, let me just say these movies are awesome. Like all great movies, yours do something special — they tell a story. They help us understand, in this case, the amazing things that are going on in classrooms and how technology is empowering our students and broadening their imaginations and challenging them to dream bigger and reach further.

The President also talked briefly about his ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of America’s students to next-generation, high-speed Internet over the next five years. He announced $400 million in new commitments from Adobe and Prezi to make free software available to teachers and students, helping introduce creative learning materials to America’s classrooms. Coupled with the $750 million in commitments that the President announced earlier this month, private-sector leaders have pledged – in February alone – to invest more than $1 billion in America’s students.

Read his full remarks here.

Lights, camera, action!

If you missed the livestream of the event, don’t worry – the film festival’s official selections, as well as the videos that received honorable mentions, are below for your viewing pleasure:

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS:

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

My Brother’s Keeper: A New White House Initiative to Empower Boys and Young Men of Color

Keeper Event

A student eyes the Emancipation Proclamation as the President gave students from William R. Harper High School in Chicago a tour of the Oval Office, June 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Today, from the East Room of the White House, President Obama will launch a new effort aimed at empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society which too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success. These obstacles are found in our schools, our communities, our criminal justice system, our families, and even in the minds of our young people themselves. The President is committed to build a broad coalition of backers to help break down barriers, clear pathways to opportunity, and reverse troubling trends which show too many of our boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks in our society.

To launch the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the President will be joined by local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media.  The challenges facing boys and young men of color are broad and multidimensional, and so must be the team we bring to the table to begin fostering solutions.

On hand today will be General Colin Powell, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Adam Silver, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, Magic Johnson, and many more leaders from key national and regional philanthropic foundations and major businesses, all of whom understand what is at stake with this effort.  When we let this many boys and young men fall behind – we are crippling our ability to reach our full potential as a nation.

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Of the People: Live from a Digital Classroom with Education Secretary Arne Duncan

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President Barack Obama and Sec. of Education Arne Duncan, right, take questions during a group discussion with 6th grade students at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, VA. January 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

On February 26, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will participate in Discovery Education and the White House’s “Of the People” webinar series. This special event is part of the second annual Future@Now forum to discuss the transition from traditional classrooms to digital classrooms.

You can register now to watch the event live on Wednesday, February 26 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Joining from a classroom in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan will explore the digital transition firsthand and answer questions from a student about how the Department of Education supports classrooms around the country and why education is the foundation of our country’s future success.

The “Of the People” series offers middle and high school students unique access to White House staff and Obama Administration officials in a series of 30-minute virtual events broadcast live from the White House and open to all classrooms nationwide.

You can tune in on February 26 at 4:30 p.m. ET — and watch upcoming installments in this series — on Discovery Education’s website. In the coming months, webinars will address topics that range from community service to climate change and from foreign policy to science and technology. A complete archive of all virtual field trip sessions will be available at www.discoveryeducation.com.

Kori Schulman is director of online engagement for the White House Office of Digital Strategy.

Fill Out Your FAFSA, Get Help Paying for College

First Lady

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) workshop at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog. Read more about AmeriCorps member Margaret Montague who advises students at T.C. Williams.

On Wednesday, during her visit to T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, First Lady Michelle Obama asked students a good question: Why would the First Lady of the United States come to a school and spend time with students “just to watch you fill out a computer form?”

The answer is that filling out one particular form – the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is one of the most important things students and families can do in planning for college success.

“You don’t have to be the valedictorian. You don’t have to major in a certain subject,” the First Lady said in her remarks. “You don’t even have to be at the bottom of the income ladder to receive the money.”

There is no income cutoff to qualify for financial aid, and most federal student aid programs don’t take grades into consideration when you apply.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who joined the First Lady at the event, pointed out in his remarks that recent changes have made filling out the FAFSA much easier.

“For too long, applying for financial aid and securing the best aid package has been much more complicated, and much less transparent, than it should have been,” Secretary Duncan said.

Duncan and FLOTUS

First Lady Michelle Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan talk with students working on FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms during a workshop at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The FAFSA, Secretary Duncan said, now uses “skip logic” so students need only to answer questions relevant to them. Improvements to the web-based form – now used by 98 percent of applicants – makes the form faster and easier to fill out, less than 30 minutes on average.

Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, provides more than $150 billion in federal grants, loans, and work-study funds each year to more than 15 million students paying for college or career school.

“Almost everyone is eligible for some kind of financial aid, and all you have to do to access that aid is fill out this one little form,” said the First Lady. “It’s so simple.”

Talking with Students

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with students working on FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms during a workshop at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Later, Secretary Duncan and the First Lady visited with parents and students, discussing plans for college and how the FAFSA is a key step to achieving their post-secondary dreams. They also talked with school counselors about their work with students.

You can take action by filling out the FAFSA today.

In case you missed it:
To learn more about how the federal government can help you attend college, check out http://studentaid.gov/
Jennifer Simon is Senior Policy Advisor to the First Lady.

Making Progress on ConnectED

connected graphicCross-posted from the White House Blog

Today, President Obama visited Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Maryland to announce major progress on the ConnectED initiative, designed to enrich K-12 education for every student in America. ConnectED empowers teachers with the best technology and the training to make the most of it, and empowers students through individualized learning and rich, digital content.

Preparing America’s students with the skills they need to get good jobs and compete with countries around the world relies increasingly on interactive, personalized learning experiences driven by new technology. Yet fewer than 30% of America’s schools have the broadband they need to connect to today’s technology. Under ConnectED, however, 99% of American students will have access to next-generation broadband by 2017. That connectivity will help transform the classroom experience for all students, regardless of income.

As the President announced today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will invest $2 billion over the next two years to dramatically expand high-speed Internet connectivity for America’s schools and libraries — connecting more than 20 million students to next-generation broadband and wireless. He also announced that private-sector companies have committed more than $750 million to deliver cutting-edge technologies to classrooms, including:

  • Apple, which will donate $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products, along with content and professional development tools to enrich learning in disadvantaged U.S. schools
  • AT&T, which pledged more than $100 million to give middle school students free Internet connectivity for educational devices over their wireless network for three years
  • Autodesk, which pledged to make their 3D design program “Design the Future” available for free in every secondary school in the U.S. — more than $250 million in value
  • Microsoft, which will launch a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its Windows operating system, which will decrease the price of Windows-based devices
  • O’Reilly Media, which is partnering with Safari Books Online to make more than $100 million in educational content and tools available for free to every school in the U.S.
  • Sprint, which will offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, valued at $100 million
  • Verizon, which announced a multi-year program to support ConnectED through up to $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments

For more information on how ConnectED works, click here.

David Hudson is Associate Director of Content in the Office of Digital Strategy.

A Renewed Call to Action to End Rape and Sexual Assault

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Additional Resources

As part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today to establish the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The taskforce will be charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. The creation of this Task Force builds upon the President’s 2010 call to action, which urged the federal government to support survivors and aggressively take action against sexual assault.

The statistics around sexual assault in this country are nothing short of jarring. A report just released by the White House Council on Women and Girls entitled, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” reveals that nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are stunning, but still can’t begin to capture the emotional and psychological scars that survivors often carry for life, or the courage needed to recover.

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Staying Competitive Through Education: The President and American Business Leaders Announce New Commitments

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

President Barack Obama hosts an education roundtable in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with business leaders and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell, center, and Founding Chair General Colin Powell, left, to discuss what the business community can do to ensure we have a skilled, educated and competitive US workforce, July 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hosts an education roundtable in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with business leaders and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell, center, and Founding Chair General Colin Powell, left, to discuss what the business community can do to ensure we have a skilled, educated and competitive US workforce, July 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On July 18th, the President hosted an education roundtable with key leaders in both the private and public sectors to discuss ways we can ensure a competitive American workforce. The attendees, including business leaders, Secretary Duncan, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, and General Colin and Mrs. Alma Powell of the America’s Promise Alliance, talked about expanding strong industry-led partnerships that are working to transform the American education system.

The President’s meeting with America’s CEOs builds on his continued focus on addressing the pressing needs of educating our children:

“A world-class education is the single most important factor in determining not just whether our kids can compete for the best jobs but whether America can outcompete countries around the world. America’s business leaders understand that when it comes to education, we need to up our game. That’s why were working together to put an outstanding education within reach for every child.”

The private sector is responding to the President’s challenge with more than financial support: Corporations have made commitments that take advantage of their areas of expertise and the skills of their employees. These undertakings include programs like Change the Equation, which focuses on corporate investment in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, Skills for America’s Future with its support of business partnerships with community colleges, and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

President Barack Obama hosts an education roundtable in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with business leaders, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell and Founding Chair General Colin Powell to discuss what the business community can do to ensure we have a skilled, educated and competitive US workforce, July 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hosts an education roundtable in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with business leaders, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell and Founding Chair General Colin Powell to discuss what the business community can do to ensure we have a skilled, educated and competitive US workforce, July 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Four major commitments are being announced today:

1) Community Engagement and Investment to Transform the Nation’s Lowest-Performing Schools: America’s Promise Alliance Grad Nation Community Impact Fund will raise $50 million to support the goal of ending the dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and career. The first planning grants from this social venture fund will be awarded in the fall to communities that demonstrate a commitment to local action aligned with the goals of the Grad Nation Campaign, including student supports for our most vulnerable young people.  Applicants will be communities with a low-performing school and a willingness and capacity to build a multi-sector, collaborative approach that includes partnerships with the business community and local school system, and the capacity to raise matching funds to promote local investment to sustain this work.

2) Expanding Opportunities for Students to Prepare for Livable Wage Jobs: Bank of America will announce a $50 million pledge to education over the next 3 years, launching this goal through $4.5 million in grants. The investment will support programs that bridge the achievement gap to post-secondary education completion and connect the underserved and unemployed, as well as returning veterans, and individuals with disabilities, to workforce success in high-growth sectors, in particular through community colleges.  Recognizing the need for knowledgeable and skilled workers to compete in the global economy, Bank of America is investing in education as part of its comprehensive lending, investing and volunteer activities aimed at strengthening the economic and social health of communities.

3) Research and Development for Next Generation Learning Models and Resources for Students and Teachers: Building on its history of commitment to education and recent $25 million STEM Scholarship grant program in Washington State, Microsoft Education is announcing a new $15M investment in research and development for immersive learning technologies including game based instruction and the creation of a lifelong learning digital archive. Through the creation of these innovative solutions, the disengaged can become passionate problem solvers and the struggling student can be offered other pathways to success.  Rooted in this investment is the understanding that technical innovation alone will not help. Therefore, over the next 3 years, Microsoft is committing to train over 150 thousand educators and leaders and provide access to professional learning communities and training to every teacher in the United States through the new Partners in Learning Network.

4) Supporting a Statewide Focus on Education System Redesign: In the past four years, the Nike School Innovation Fund(NSIF) has provided $7 million in innovation grants and thousands of volunteer hours by senior Nike leaders and other employees to support students, teachers and principals in three Oregon public school districts. The Fund is announcing a new commitment as a primary partner of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and his initiative to help make the state’s entire education system more nimble, innovative and supportive of the key grades of 9 to 12. With this news, Nike’s commitment to strengthening education in Oregon totals $10 million. The NSIF will now provide a year of funding, expertise and policy guidance that is expected to serve as a model for the Governor’s larger statewide education transformation plan.

The President is dedicated to keeping America’s workforce competitive, an achievement that can only be reached through addressing the pressing needs of American education. This week’s education roundtable is a clear example of the President’s dedication, and these new commitments are evidence that America’s business leaders share his concern and his belief that change is possible.