My Brother’s Keeper: Voices of Young Men in Denver

Sometimes, all it takes is an honest conversation to be reminded of the power and courage of so many of our country’s students. Earlier this month, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics convened 10 Hispanic young men from the Denver area to sit down with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Colorado Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver President Stephen Jordan, and a few other guests, to have just that – an honest conversation.

The roundtable was held at MSU Denver. The young men were students at MSU Denver or at area high schools, and they shared stories about their lives, the challenges they have faced and overcome, the supports that have helped them through, and the things they believe need to be changed or improved to help more Hispanics and other young men of color succeed.

Many of the high school students are regular participants in activities with Padres y Jovenes Unidos, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve educational equity for Denver students. They shared their experiences around issues like school discipline and need for mentorships. In the video below, you’ll see that the conversation was powerful and moving. It provided insight into how we as a society need to support young men of color, and reminded us of the potential that exists in them.

Marco Davis is Deputy Director for the White House Initiatives on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Learn more at www.whitehouse.gov/my-brothers-keeper.

Summer Melt

It’s summer time! Across the nation thousands of recent high school graduates are enjoying their last summer before their first college semester. They are submitting deposits, selecting courses, packing, and anxiously awaiting their first day. However, a large portion of students from low-income communities will have a very different summer experience. Despite being college eligible and in some cases even enrolled, these students will not attend in the fall and will instead “melt” away during the summer.

Graduation CapsThis is called “summer melt”. Nationally about 10 to 20 percent of college eligible students melt away, most of which are low-income minority students planning to enroll in community college. In the Southwest district that includes Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, 44 percent of students melt away. The melt was 19 percent for four-year institutions and 37 percent for community colleges in 2011. The lower a student’s income, the more likely they are to experience summer melt because they lack the necessary resources and support. This means that we are losing future Latino leaders and innovators over the summer. We cannot allow this to happen.  A higher education is not just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite.

This is an important issue for the Latino community because the jobs of the 21st century will require some workforce training or postsecondary education.  As more Latinos graduate from high school every year we need to ensure that they not only access higher education but are prepared to graduate. By 2050 about 30 percent of the US population will be Latino. Also for a majority of low-income minority students, community college is often the selected path to obtain a college degree. So we must address summer melt to increase the number of Latinos earning two and four-year degrees.

This issue can be alleviated via simple measures at home during summer. Parents, speak frequently with your child about college and help them prepare for their fall semester. Encourage them to attend their freshman orientation and encourage them to interact with friends who are enrolled and attending college. Furthermore, encourage your student to remain in contact with school counselors, teachers, and college administrators over summer to ensure that their questions are answered. Students, make sure that you get organized over summer and stay on top of all deadlines. Remember, you are already accepted but you cannot get your college degree if you do not show up.

Alejandra Ceja is the executive director for the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics

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Early Learning: A Prerequisite for Success in the Hispanic Community

Hispanic Students Attending College Graph

The biggest jump we’ve seen among students attending college is for Hispanic students – 32% now attend college, compared to 24% in 2003.

It is no surprise to see a room full of business leaders, but what made the meeting on March 19, different was that the leaders in the room were focused on a different kind of investment: education. Secretary Arne Duncan set the stage for the America’s Greatest Investment: Educating the Future plenary session during the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C., by delivering remarks celebrating the educational successes in the Hispanic community and highlighting key components of President Obama’s call for universal high-quality early education.

The good news is that Hispanic high school graduation and college enrollment rates have increased over the last four years. About three in four Latino high school students graduate with their class, and there are now more than half a million additional Hispanic students enrolled in college compared to 2008. But there is still a great deal of work to be done, because while college enrollment is soaring, college completion rates have not kept pace.

Duncan speaks at Hispanic Summit

Secretary Duncan at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C.

The shortage of Hispanic students on graduation day in college has its roots at the beginning of the education pipeline. One of the best, most strategic ways to continue and build on the educational progress in the Hispanic community is to expand access to affordable, high-quality preschool while also boosting college completion rates

High-quality early education offers the highest rate of return with some studies projecting a return of $7 for every $1 spent. During his State of the Union address, President Obama introduced a new universal preschool plan that would launch a new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program and expand the Administration’s evidence-based home visiting initiative. It would create a groundbreaking federal-state partnership that will enable states to provide universal, high-quality preschool for four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families, up to 200 percent of the poverty line.

To garner support for universal high-quality early education programs, Secretary Duncan called on business leaders “to make the case for the significant return-on-investment and greater equity that high-quality early learning will produce for America’s future workforce.” He continued that “business leaders [need] to encourage employees, customers, and neighbors to push for and to participate in high-quality preschool in greater numbers.”

Now is the time for every child in America to have an opportunity for high-quality early education so that all students arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. As he concluded his remarks, Secretary Duncan stated, “With bipartisan backing, with your commitment and leadership, I believe our nation will soon take its next step to transform preschool education. I believe state and local leaders, CEOs, teachers, and moms and dads and grandparents will stand up and say: It is time.”

Read Secretary Duncan’s speech and learn more about President Obama’s plan for early education for all Americans.

Marco Davis is Acting Executive Director for the White House Initiatives on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

ED-Funded Training Helps Displaced Welder Find Calling as Bilingual Teacher

A few years ago, José Grimaldo found himself at a crossroads when he lost his job as a welder at a factory in Illinois. With three children and a wife to support, what was he to do? Grimaldo, like many others who have found themselves jobless during the recent economic downturn, decided to go back to school.

Initially, he began working towards a degree to become a social worker. During one class project, he volunteered in a local school and found himself in a classroom with young students.  There, Grimaldo realized how much he enjoyed working with children and applied for a position as a teacher assistant in a special education program. He worked in this capacity for several years until he began to yearn for his own classroom.

Grimaldo soon decided to abandon his plans to become a social worker, and he enrolled at Illinois State University to study for a bachelor’s degree in education. However, much to Grimaldo’s dismay, he soon learned that most of the education courses were offered only during the day, which posed a problem since Grimaldo was working full-time and could only attend classes at night. Not one to give up easily, he discovered the Bilingual Paraprofessionals in Transition (BPT) program at Illinois State University and quickly enrolled.

José Grimaldo teaches bilingual special education at Foreman High School in Chicago

José Grimaldo teaches bilingual special education at Foreman High School in Chicago

The BPT program follows a grow-your-own model that recruits individuals already working in high-need schools as paraprofessionals or teacher assistants and enables them to take on-site course work and supervision leading to certification and/or endorsements in bilingual/English as a second language (ESL) education. The BPT program is funded by a National Professional Development (NPD) grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). NPD is the only federal grant program that targets professional development exclusively for education personnel who serve English learners.

NPD-funded projects provide participants with tuition assistance and a network of support while completing their program of study. To date, the NPD program has achieved tremendous outcomes with 6,828 pre-service teachers having completed programs that led to teaching credentials; 6,239 in-service teachers having completed programs that led to bilingual or ESL certification; 8,412 in-service teachers having completed professional programs that did not lead to bilingual or ESL certification; and 115 bilingual paraprofessionals having completed associates degree programs.

Since Illinois State’s first NPD grant in 2007, the university’s BPT program has graduated 57 paraprofessionals and all of them have gotten jobs as teachers. More will graduate in May.

The impact of the BPT program on the lives of students and teachers alike has been exceedingly positive, as Grimaldo can attest. Despite working long days as a teacher assistant and then staying after work to take classes, Grimaldo never once complained, said George Torres, director of the BPT program.

Grimaldo graduated cum laude in the spring of 2011 and now teaches bilingual special education at Foreman High School in Chicago. He credits his own struggle as an English learner (EL) with his ability to understand the challenges that ELs face in the classroom as well as in their community.

He said he feels that his choice to live within the same community where he teaches is important. He often sees his students while out doing errands, and his students see that his commitment to them extends beyond the classroom.

Grimaldo’s accomplishment is important, not only because he has found an important and rewarding profession, but because he is helping to solve one of our country’s biggest educational challenges: recruiting teachers who look and sound like our students. According to a 2008 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 22 percent of our nation’s students are Hispanic, while just over 7 percent of our teachers are.

Asked how his experience in the BPT program has affected him and his family’s life, Grimaldo said, “I feel that I am setting a good example for my children – Joanna (20), Joseph (18), and Jonathan (11). My wife, Ana, is also working toward a degree in this program. She will graduate this spring. Our children state that they feel proud of what we have and will continue to accomplish, and that we inspired them to continue their education.”

Earlier this week, ED announced the award of nearly $24.4 million for 73 grants to improve instruction for English learners. Click here to learn more.

Anthony Sepúlveda is an education program specialist in the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA)

Teachers@ED: José Rico

Editors Note: Teachers@ED profiles some of the hundreds of current and former educators who work at the U.S. Department of Education, and how their experiences in schools inform their work for the agency.

Carlos and Celia Rico had big hopes for their children, which is one reason the couple emigrated from Mexico, and settled in Chicago. José, Carlos and Celia’s oldest, quickly adapted to the new language, culture and climate, and with a combination of support and inspiration from teachers, he became the first person in his family to go to college. Still, Rico never expected that he would one day become the executive director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Teachers@ED Logo“When I first started school, I was one of those students who had a hard time,” Rico said. “My school did not have a bilingual education program; it was one of those sink-or-swim programs. The school didn’t provide support for my parents, and there was no support for me to access the curriculum.”

Founding a School to Help Students Like Him

This all changed when Rico reached high school and he came to know teachers who pushed him to excel. His strongest subjects were math and science; high marks in these areas earned him an engineering scholarship to the University of Illinois. Soon thereafter, he became a high school science teacher. Later on, after having worked in youth development programs, Rico took notice of the power in young people taking responsibility for their education; he decided to harness that power by opening his own community high school, which had a health clinic and provided classes for students learning English, in addition to general academics.

“The motivating factor was not wanting students to face the same obstacles I had faced,” Rico said. “My passion has been to try to design education programs that value students, include their parents and expect high standards from everyone.”

José Rico

José Rico

Rico’s charge within ED is to link individuals and organizations from within and outside the education system to meet the local and national challenges faced by Hispanics today and spread the word about education initiatives in early learning, higher education, K-12 and other specific areas that focus on the Hispanic community. He also works to develop relationships with thousands of Hispanic leaders across the country who are implementing these changes.

Most recently, the White House Initiative and the White House Office of Public Engagement brought together more than 500 Hispanic community leaders for a Hispanic Community Action Summit in Los Angeles, the 17th regional summit organized by the office to address important issues such as: funding resources for pre-K-postsecondary education; health care; small business needs; immigration issues; and communication infrastructures among Latino organizations.

Local Leaders Want a Federal Partner

“Leaders on the ground want the federal government to be a partner,” Rico says. “People in the Hispanic community want us to play a role. Some states have cut back on education and it has a big impact on the Hispanic community. People want us to work with them and bring a diverse group of stakeholders to the table.”

Educating Latinos is not only important to their community, Rico emphasizes; it’s critical for the country. In the last two years, Latinos have become the largest minority group in the nation’s schools.

“I’ve seen the power education plays in a kid’s life, regardless of where they come from. Education leads to a better job, and it is a way in which our country can fulfill the promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can be successful.” Rico says. “There’s no way of denying that the future of America depends on the education attainment of Hispanics.”

Natalie Torentinos is a graduate student at The George Washington University and an intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach.

Community Action Grows Organically at Hispanic Summit

José Rico, executive director of White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, arranged the last chair in the multi-purpose room of Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies in Los Angeles and flashed a smile to his team. “Let’s do it,” he said.

Secretary Salazar speaking at the forum

Department of the Interior Ken Salazar speaks the Summit. Photo by Tami Heilemann.

On April 5, the Initiative and the White House Office of Public Engagement brought together more than 500 Hispanic community leaders for a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit. By using an Open Space format, the summit democratically captured the voices, needs and interests of all participants.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and other Hispanic leaders opened the day. Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta received a standing ovation. Students in neat blue-collared shirts from Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center sat in the front row, looking shy but proud.

Next, more than 35 senior leaders from various federal agencies shared how their work supports Hispanic initiatives and priorities, and they invited the local leaders to engage in dialog to help the federal government be more responsive to the community’s needs. “I’m not leaving until I hear what you have to say,” one federal official said. “I’ll be here all day.”

An agenda in motion

Then, any summit participant who wanted to offer a session to the group took the microphone. A long line stretched around the room as the topics and locations for the sessions were projected on a screen for everyone.

Nearly 40 sessions were proposed, with topics addressing both local and national issues, including: “funding resources for PreK-12 education to provide support,” “building communication among Latino organizations,” “addressing enforcement issues in immigration,” “the Affordable Care Act and health disparities in the Latino community,” “regional environmental issues in the San Gabriel mountains,” and a teacher roundtable as part of the Department of Education’s National Conversation about the Teaching Profession.

After picking up lunch, people moved to the sessions that interested them most. At numbered tables and clusters of chairs, participants dug deeply into summit priorities, sharing experiences and expertise from their unique contexts. Laptops along the side of the room allowed groups to upload and share their session reports.

Summit Roundtable Discussion

A breakout session at the Summit

Taking action

At the end of the day, José Rico pulled everyone back together into a large circle to share their action plans and recommendations. “What,” he asked them, “are you going to be ready to do when you leave here today?”

The White House Hispanic Community Action Summit in Los Angeles was the 17th regional summit organized by the White House Initiative and White House Office of Public Engagement to address issues critically important to the Hispanic community. Summit discussions have informed the implementation of new policies and helped the Obama Administration increase participation in and awareness of federal initiatives programs, as well as leading to concrete next steps being taken by both the federal government and summit participants

A recently released interim report details some of the outcomes and follow-up from previous summits. For more information about the initiative, visit www.whitehouse.gov/hispanic.

Maryann Woods-Murphy is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches Spanish in Allendale, NJ. She is also the 2009-2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year.

San Antonio Community Joins National Conversation about Education

Duncan at Cafe College

Secretary Duncan at Cafe College in San Antonio. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

“America’s economic success is inextricably linked with the success of the Hispanic community,” Secretary Duncan said last week in San Antonio. Duncan joined the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics for two events, including a town hall with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro at Café College, San Antonio’s college access and resource center that encourages and helps students of all ages obtain a higher education.

During the town hall, community leaders and educators discussed the importance of expanding opportunities for Hispanic students to meet President Obama’s education goals for the nation. Nearly 140 audience members, and over 500 online viewers participated as Secretary Duncan and Mayor Castro answered questions about local, regional and national efforts to improve college access, affordability, and persistence for all students.

Café College is part of San Antonio 2020, an effort created under Mayor Castro’s leadership, which seeks to improve early learning and higher education opportunities for all San Antonio residents by 2020.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Secretary Duncan also joined more than 400 community leaders and 28 senior Obama administration officials at the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit at Fox Tech High School. The summit brought together the community to identify issues of concern for Hispanics and develop solutions that would improve access to and quality of education.

Speaking at the Summit, Duncan noted that “the success of the Hispanic community, as with other communities, is largely dependent on educational attainment and on ensuring that barriers in the way of this objective are tackled head-on.”

The event was the 14th summit held by the White House office of Public Engagement and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The summit series has engaged almost 5,000 leaders throughout the nation.

The event is part of a series of summits throughout the nation developed by the White House office of Public Engagement and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Watch the archived webcast of the town hall at: http://bit.ly/EdSAT.

#HispanicED Twitter Town Hall with Arne Duncan

Duncan answers questions at the Hispanic Twitter Town Hall

Secretary Duncan answers questions at the Hispanic Twitter Town Hall. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

An engaged audience with a broad range of questions joined Secretary Arne Duncan on Twitter and via video yesterday to discuss education issues facing the Latino community. Duncan was joined by José Rico, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and guests from Latinos in Social Media (LATISM). In all, Arne and José answered more than 20 questions. Here is a sample of some of the topics discussed:

College Affordability

https://twitter.com/#!/Vicky522/status/166925003693109248

Parental Involvement

Early Learning

To see all of the tweets from the event, check out @HispanicED on Twitter, and to see the archived video of the event, click here.

White House Listens to Arizona

More than 350 community leaders came together last Saturday in Phoenix for the White House’s Hispanic Community Action Summit at the ASU-Downtown Campus. Arizona civic leaders joined in thought-provoking discussions and analysis of a wide-range of policy areas, but on display was the kind of interactive conversations that make our democracy work.

The event examined issues important to all Arizonans.  At the Summit, DREAM Act advocates who attended were passionate about their desire to achieve the American Dream.  They participated in meaningful dialogue with business and civic leaders, educators and students covering a wide range of topics in the daylong session.

In addition to discussions regarding comprehensive immigration reform, thirty-three other issues were explored in small groups. Productive solutions were presented throughout the day in round-table settings that focused on job creation, economic development, health care, education and the current state of the Arizona housing market, among others.

High-level White House officials sought a local perspective on solving these issues and it quickly became apparent that the concerns are not solely Hispanic challenges; they are Arizona challenges; they are American challenges.

The visitors from Washington D.C. as well as the participants in each of the discussion groups, young and old alike shared their insights, knowledge, and expertise.  There truly was a two-way flow of information.

The meeting was about Arizona achieving its brightest future. Almost half of Arizona’s K-12 student population is Hispanic.  With Latinos making up the fastest-growing community in Arizona and the United States, we must be better positioned to succeed academically and economically if Arizona is to compete both nationally and globally.

Kent Paredes Scribner, Ph. D.
Superintendent, Phoenix Union High School District

Scribner serves on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and was one of the co-hosts of the Summit.

Join Arne for a Twitter Town Hall on Hispanic Education

To follow up on the President’s State of the Union Address—in which critical topics like college affordability, dropout rates, teachers, and job training were addressed—Secretary Duncan will engage with the Hispanic community through a Twitter town hall at 3:00 p.m. ET on February 8.  The conversation on Twitter will be conducted in both English and Spanish and will be moderated by José Rico, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Twitter users can ask questions in advance and during the town hall by using the hashtag #HispanicED.  The town hall will be streamed live on Arne’s Facebook Page and ED’s Ustream page.

David Terry is Deputy Director of ED’s Information Resource Center

From the Inland Empire to the White House: Building Community and Winning Our Future

On Nov. 5, 2011, more than 300 community stakeholders from the San Bernardino and Riverside counties (the Inland Empire) and others from Los Angeles and northern California joined several senior Obama administration officials for a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit at the University of California, Riverside, Riverside, Calif.  This summit was one of several White House tours across the country aimed at connecting local communities directly with White House leadership, including policy officials who focus on health, education, immigration, civil rights, community engagement, and job creation.

To begin the day, Secretary of Labor and southern California native Hilda Solis welcomed the community via video and assured participants that our local concerns are also national concerns—especially given the demographics, challenges and possibilities unique to the region.

White House Community Hispanic Community Action Summit

Photo by Carlos Puma

Before lunch, Jose Rico, deputy director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics introduced the “Open Space” process to engage the community.  The Open Space process gives community members the opportunity to dialogue on topics of shared interest.  There were more than 30 community-driven Open Space sessions, including Hispanic small business ownership, environmental issues and the Hispanic community, immigration, and various topics in education.  The  format allowed participants to discuss similar interests, share frustrations and challenges, and devise plans to respond.  Participating stakeholders included parents, teachers, high school and college students, university faculty and administrators, business owners, retired educators, nonprofit leaders, clergy, and others who were present and contributed to the rich dialogue and perspective.  One of the most well attended and productive sessions focused on “Defining a Quality Education in the Inland Empire,” which addressed the dropout crisis, set clear education attainment goals for the region, and engaged in cross-institutional collaboration.  This session resulted in a concrete plan to establish a region-wide collaborative aimed at addressing issues of equity and opportunity for all children in the Inland Empire.

Prior to the “Open Space” sessions, the summit provided a series of intense, quick workshops that provided attendees with an overview of the many efforts aimed to improve the lives of Latinos across the country. Participants were able to hear from the dozen or so officials about the work in their respective agencies. For example, we learned that the proposed American Jobs Act is estimated to bring California $2.8 billion for modernization efforts to rebuild crumbling buildings and classes, which could help the state begin work on long overdue upgrades to schools and classrooms, supporting an estimated 36,600 jobs and $3.6 billion — enough to prevent an estimated 37,300 teacher layoffs for one school year. In the area of higher education, the administration increased Pell Grants in order to make college more affordable and reminded the public about the underused Income Based Repayment (IBR) program and a proposal to cap student loan payments to 10% of discretionary income for some current students during to help in this challenging economy.

At the close of the summit, Rico led a “News of the Day” discussion that focused on the reflections and progress from the day.  Many participants were grateful for the summit and were impressed by the Hispanic presence in President’s Obama’s administration.  One participant noted that the administration’s work and community engagement are inspiring for us all at the local level.

This White House Community Hispanic Community Action Summit served a much-needed role in galvanizing community stakeholders who might not have otherwise connected with one another.  White House officials not only sent a strong message to the Inland Empire that we are on the national radar, but the summit participants also demonstrated their passion, interest and expertise in responding to local challenges facing our region.  This willingness to collaborate on the part of both entities was apparent, and many walked away feeling that our challenges and hopes in the Inland Empire are not just local matters, but part of the administration’s national priority.

Louie F. Rodriguez is an assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino, and the  principal investigator for The PRAXIS Project.        

Join Arne for a Virtual Town Hall on Hispanic Education

To kick off the Administration’s focus on Hispanic education as a part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Secretary Duncan will engage with the Latino community through a virtual town hall at 2:30 p.m. ET today. The town hall will be moderated by Juan Sepúlveda, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Duncan and Sepúlveda will discuss how Hispanic success in education is important to America’s economy and respond to questions submitted on Twitter.

The town hall will be streamed live at ED’s ustream channel. Twitter users can ask questions in advance and during the forum using the hashtag #HispanicED.