A Latina’s Perspective on My Brother’s Keeper

As a Latina student who is pretty engaged on education issues I was generally familiar with the President’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative from a distance. Upon joining the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) as a policy and communications intern this summer, I came to fully realize and appreciate the magnitude of what this historic effort meant for me, my family, and millions of other Latinos across the country. I’ve learned many things since then—one of them being the immense value an initiative such as MBK has and what it means for future generations of Latinos, both males and females.

Blog #3It was not until I learned the sobering statistics about the significant gender gap between Hispanic males and females that I understood the weight and implications of not doing anything – of being satisfied with the status quo. Indeed, this gap follows Latino males from Pre-K through to high school and beyond. In 2009, among Latinos enrolling in college, 61 percent were women and 39 percent were men. Data also shows that Latino males have a higher risk of being disciplined in preschool, suspended or expelled in grades K-12, imprisoned, or unemployed—all of which steer them away from reaching their full potential and ensuring our country’s success.

When I envision these Latino males, the faces of my father, my brother, and my nephew appear in my mind. Without statistics at hand, I couldn’t put those numbers into perspective and paint a picture of the dismal life circumstances that many young men of color, including the Latino males in my family, face. The reality is that I live in a world where the people who I love most are at risk for becoming another statistic—if they haven’t already become one. I know the hardships of my father’s past, including not finishing college and imprisonment, and I understand the struggles my nephew will face in overcoming the challenges associated with living in a low-income household. Despite this newfound understanding of their reality, my reason to hope for a better future is tremendous.

President Obama fully realizes the dire state that all young men of color, including Latinos, might face—and while the urgency for reform is at an all-time high—he is making great strides to create a better future for all families, especially those most in need. There are currently incredible efforts being made to change the systems that have made these statistics a part of our reality in the Latino community. With the launch of MBK, President Obama hopes to help close the educational and opportunity gaps that many young men of color in this country face and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The efforts of this initiative, including a call for more mentoring and skill-building, will end up changing the lives of millions of young people, including young men of color and their families.

This summer I was able to see some of the most passionate advocates for education reform, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools Mike Casserly, Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, and Deputy Director of the WHIEEH Marco Davis, come together in a boardroom one morning to discuss new private commitments in support of MBK. School districts and private sector corporations announced new private commitments to tackle the issues affecting all of our youth, including our young boys and men of color. The commitments made are powerful—companies like the NBA, AT&T, and Citi Foundation have pledged to provide the resources needed for social reform of this scale to take place. These private companies collectively have promised $100 million, and additionally 60 of the nation’s largest public school systems have committed to implement evidence-based plans to reduce dropout rates among other harrowing statistics. When these plans are put into action, we can continue to change the systems that our communities are struggling to maneuver through.

The scale of these commitments is unprecedented, and it is something to applaud. As Latinas, we should not hesitate to support efforts that will uplift not only our brothers, fathers, sons, and nephews, but all Americans. We must support each other through this journey of reforming society and continue our work in solidarity so that lasting change can reach all Americans, including people like my nephew and the generations of Latinos that will come after him.

As my internship comes to an end, I am deeply encouraged that the WHIEEH has placed a key emphasis on My Brother’s Keeper and will continue to move the needle forward ensuring the educational attainment for our Hispanic community—nuestra comunidad.

Written by Gladys Rosario, rising junior at University of California, Berkeley and summer intern for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

 

Drawing the Right Lessons from Vergara

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Sometimes conflict is the starting point on the path to progress.

That’s one of two possible ways events could play out in the wake of Vergara v. California,a court case that is driving enormous debate throughout the education world.

Brought on behalf of nine public school students, the Vergara case argued that California’s laws on teacher tenure and placement violate the right to an education in the state constitution. The lawsuit claimed that minority and low-income students are deprived of effective teachers by state laws that, in essence, award lifetime employment to teachers after as little as 18 months, and that require layoffs on the basis of seniority.

Last week, a judge agreed, saying these laws deprive students of their civil rights. The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher.

The question is, what happens now?

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#GEARUP Alumni Hector Araujo’s Success Maximized through Educational Partnership

Cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom

Lacking a strong role model, Hector Araujo’s community told him that an education was not necessary to be successful. He spent his life running races; the only problem is, this race would have led him into the criminal justice system.

That changed, though, when Emily Johnson — a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Coordinator from Boise, Idaho — transplanted herself into Hector’s school. He was awe-struck when he found that someone believed in him.

“She has been the greatest factor in my life,” Hector said on stage at the 2014 Building a GradNation Summit hosted by America’s Promise Alliance, before introducing Secretary Arne Duncan. “What is [most] important is that there are people in your life that are going to support you and nurture you to achieve the dreams that God has put in your heart.”

Today, the U.S. Department of Education is announcing the availability of $75 million for two new Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) competitions. The aim of this year’s GEAR UP competition is to improve college fit and readiness, so all students graduate from high school prepared for college without needing remedial courses – a problem for millions of beginning college students each year – and enroll in an institution that will help them maximize their success. This follows up on a commitment the Department made at the White House College Opportunity summit in January to help students achieve the necessary milestones that provide a pathway to college success.

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Making Education Work for Latinas in the U.S.

Research and video by the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, commissioned by the Eva Longoria Foundation

The UCLA Civil Rights Project (CRP) conducted a study in 2013 to examine the existing knowledge base about promoting Latina educational success, defined as completing high school and then going on to secure a college degree.

STUDY BACKGROUND

Across the nation, there is a rising crisis in the low education levels of Latino youth. While nearly 35% of white adults hold a BA degree or higher, only 15% of adult Latinos do. The situation is even worse in California, the state with the largest number of Latinos, where only about 11% of adult Latinas/os hold a BA degree or higher. Given that the majority of the school age population in California is now Latina/o, this under-education is not just an urgent educational problem, but it foreshadows an economic issue for California, and the nation.

Although Latinas complete college at almost twice the rate as their male counterparts, they trail all other women by significant percentages. Two-thirds of Latinas come from low-income families, and many people continue to hold negative stereotypes about Latinas. These factors manifest unique challenges for these young women: they are often expected to prioritize family responsibilities above school; they often feel that they “don’t belong” in school, a feeling that can be reinforced by discrimination and low expectations; they see few models of Latinas who have excelled educationally that they can emulate, and too many lack any understanding of how or even why to pursue a college education.

STUDY FINDINGS

The Civil Rights Project found a number of important “levers” for improving educational outcomes:Latinas in a classroom

  • Having more Latina/o teachers leads to significantly higher rates of college going for Latinas
  • Maintaining bilingual skills is associated with a higher rate of high school completion and college going
  • Feeling confident about math, and doing well in it, leads to higher rates of high school completion and college going
  • Being involved in extracurricular activities in school is associated with successful high school graduation and college going, and also appears to be related to developing a sense of belonging in school
  • Having a strong personal belief about completing high school and going to college predicts actually doing so
  • Having Peers with the knowledge and aspirations to go to college is associated with college-going

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Financing a College Education

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to meet with students, parents, educators and community leaders across the country to discuss the importance of education. I have seen first-hand the remarkable impact leadership, engagement and a rigorous education can have, not only on a student but on an entire community.  I have also seen the devastating impact associated with the lack of educational opportunity and access, in particular for families who strive to reach the middle class.

During a town hall discussion at a high school, I was reminded of just how critical access to information and awareness of the various financial aid resources that exist can be: in a room filled with 200 high school juniors and seniors, when asked how many had filled out the FAFSA™ form, only 3 hands went up. When asked how many were college bound, the same 3 hands went up.  When asked why so many were not thinking of college, the question of affordability was at the forefront of their hesitation.  While Latinos have made significant strides in high school completion and college enrollment, there remain challenging gaps that have resulted in only 15 percent of Latino adults graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

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3 Reasons to Be Proud for Supporters of Education Equality

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post

In all the years that I’ve been advocating for economically disadvantaged students, I’ve never seen a time when so many forces seem to be aligning in our favor. First, on Feb. 25, Child Trends released a groundbreaking report that laid out a solid evidentiary base for Integrated Student Supports (ISS). And then, barely a month later, the White House waded into the same waters with its first-ever national summit on ISS.

A report plus a meeting? That might sound like just another day at the office, but this particular report and this particular meeting are anything but business as usual in the battle for educational equality. I’ve already written about the significance of the Child Trends report, and now, given a few days to digest the proceedings at the White House summit, I’m convinced that we will one day look back on this event as the prototypical “quiet meeting in a church basement” where a social movement is born.

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ACA Latino Week of Action

It’s “Latino Week of Action,” and a time to make sure all of our Latino students and families are enrolled and covered by health insurance.   This week represents the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continuing efforts to engage the Latino community to #GetCovered or #Asegurate under the Affordable Care Act.

Across the country, community organizations have joined local, state and federal government partners to convene health care enrollment events, partnering with Spanish language media to offer personalized enrollment assistance and to encourage Latinos to sign up for quality and affordable health coverage.

  • The Latino Week of Action will increase outreach efforts to educate Latinos across the country about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and to let them know how affordable quality health insurance is if they enroll in the health insurance Marketplaces.

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Latino Education and the Fifth Anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  This was in response to the worst economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression.  At the time, private employers had cut almost 4 million jobs and trillions in dollars in household wealth had been wiped out. 

The Council of Economic Advisors has released its final report to Congress which affirms the investments made through ARRA have had a positive impact on the economy.  We not only see the effects of ARRA through the millions of jobs it helped create, but we also see how ARRA has helped in the classroom.

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First Lady Michelle Obama: “I’m First”

Last November, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the sophomore class at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, D.C. about the importance of higher education. In her remarks, Mrs. Obama talked about how education has created opportunity in her own life, working hard to attend and graduate from college.

Like the First Lady, many Latinos are also the first in their family to go to college.  The whole process; from applying to college, to finding ways to pay for it, to navigating a college campus, can be overwhelming, as it was for the First Lady. 

Yesterday, the White House released a special video message from the First Lady in which she talks about being the first in her family to attend college. This video is part of the “I’m First” storytelling project, which lifts up the stories of first generation college students in order to inspire future generations.

As the First Lady says in her video, “no matter where you come from or how much money your family has, I want you to know that you can succeed in college, and get your degree, and then go on to build an incredible life for yourself.”

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Making Progress on ConnectED

Cross-posted from the White House blog

ConnectedED

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. 

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