Voices from the Field: Amy Dawson Taggart

“If you care about our national security, then, you’d better care about high-quality early childhood education.”
Interview with Amy Dawson Taggart
National Director, Mission: Readiness
Vice President, Council for a Strong America

Amy-Picture

by Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks
Mission: Readiness is the nonpartisan national security organization of over 500 retired admirals, generals, and other retired senior military leaders calling for smart investments in America’s children. It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America.

Steven: How did you begin your career in early learning?

Amy: It really goes back to a time in my early career when I was volunteering with my church in East Palo Alto, California back in the late ‘80s and it was the murder capital of country per capita. So, there in the shadow of Stanford and all that wealth was poverty. We would go in and we rented an apartment in a tenement complex and we cooked breakfast in the morning for the little kids who would come. We were able to provide nutritious food and tutoring and mentoring. They were so bright and smart and energized and happy and open to learning. And you would look out the door and there would be their older siblings, middle school and high school kids and it felt like they probably wanted to come in too, but, they were too cool. And, by that stage, it was really hard to imagine how many opportunities were going to be available to those kids. And, after a while of regularly experiencing this, I thought, I love what I am doing directly with these kids, but this is one kid at a time. I need to go up river and stop whoever is throwing them in. I need to go and look at how people are getting into these situations in the first place – needing so much. That was really my number one motivation.

Steven: What do you see is the role of Mission Readiness and the generals and admirals in improving the quality of early learning?

Amy: We’ve got 500 retired generals and admirals now who are deeply concerned about early childhood education because according to the Department of Defense more than 70% of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to join the military. And, when you look at the reasons, their physical fitness is certainly significant. Criminal record is important. But, but most of all, kids are academically unprepared. And far too many are not graduating from high school or even if they do, they can’t pass the military’s entrance exam. What we look at is that that poses a challenge for the 21st century military and the 21st century workforce. We’ve got to have the most technologically advanced military in the world. And, we need educated men and women to operate it. So, when you look at just what are some of the most successful interventions that are going to help kids ultimately succeed in school, all roads tend to lead to high quality early childhood education. Research shows high quality early education can prepare kids to start school, ready to learn. It boosts graduation rates. It cuts future crime rates. It can even impact obesity rates by instilling healthy eating and exercising habits from an early age. So, when you are an organization like ours that is focused on how to help kids stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble, all roads lead to high-quality early education.

And one of our top concerns is the tremendous unmet need for quality preschool. The most effective programs are only reaching a fraction of the kids who would benefit the most. More than two thirds of States are serving fewer than 30% of their 4-year olds and just a tiny fraction of their 3-year olds. And then, six States have no State-funded preschool at all. So, there’s no question. And as a mother of two little boys, I certainly believe this, that all of us share a responsibility as parents, as citizens, and as leaders, to make sure that our kids are well educated and healthy. And clearly, there’s also a role that government can and needs to play in increasing access to high quality early education. So, the retired generals and admirals of Mission Readiness consider this a national security issue because if we do not bring young people up to speed and get them in shape, we face serious social and economic consequences and that puts America’s security at risk.

Steven: Why do you think – I mean you kind of answered this already – but why do you think the President’s proposal to provide high quality learning and early development programs is important to our country, and what do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities?

Amy: Budgets are all about priorities, and finding new funding for programs is always a challenge so number one is just finding that political will to do what is going to be most effective. And that entails getting policy makers to look at the long-term cost-savings. Congress often tends to be concerned most with the current year deficit, not looking at the fact that investments like this can yield a return of $16 for every $1 invested. But, really, when I look at it, it’s an opportunity to work on an issue that research proves to be effective. Research clearly shows that early learning works. So, it’s not about whether we should have it or should not have it. But, rather how should early learning work and what are the national commitments to making sure all kids have access to high-quality early education.

Voices from the Field by Senior Advisor Steven Hicks

Interview with Steven Dow, Executive Director, Community Action Project of Tulsa County

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Steven Hicks: How did you begin your career in early learning?

Steven Dow: Most of our work was actually focused on adults, and we focused primarily on trying to improve their economic wellbeing. The realization for me about the limited impact our programs were having was simply frustrating. That combined with I would say more and more exposure to the research in the field suggested that our work, however hard we were trying, was going to have a limited impact, and not the kind of transformational impact that we wanted to have in individual’s lives at the stage in their lives in which we were starting. And, so, you know, the opportunity was sort of what the motivation was. The opportunity was that, frankly in the late 90s we really focused on two big pieces of legislation– both of which passed in the late 90s. But one got a lot more attention that the other. The first piece was, of course, the Universal Pre-K legislation but the second piece was also pretty important. While Oklahoma is not generally regarded or known as a leader, at the same time that we passed the Pre-K legislation, we also created the first tiered reimbursement rate for child care. So we were working on both of those things at the beginning advocacy level and the other thing that just happened to happen at that time was that in Tulsa, the Federal government finally shut down what was at that point a dysfunctional Head Start program. And so our organization had the opportunity to jump in and become the Head Start grantee and because of the way we had created the state legislation we were in a position to really get the program off in the right way- because, we had sufficient resources through Head Start and the pre-k dollars to really get the ingredients for high quality right from the outset.

SH: What do you think or see as the role of community action agencies in improving the quality of early learning?

SD: Well, I think there are two or three different things. You know, one is that I think Community Action Agencies think of their role more expansively than simply you know, working with the child. So the critical importance of the work with the family, which I think is really the hallmark of what an effective early education requires, is something which Community Action Agencies are already doing. And so they don’t have to build that into either their orientation towards the work, nor build the relationship with the families directly. And I think the challenge for a lot of Community Action Agencies, particularly those that are getting Head Start funding, is to really try to identify different ways of working together with the school system– particularly in those places that are expanding their pre-k or opportunities where the school district is often viewed by the community as the more appropriate deliverer of those services. So for us, we had to simply figure out from the outset how we were going to use our resources and partner with the school districts in really meaningful ways whether that was if they’re offering pre-k, partnering with them to meet some of the additional needs that families have with Head Start wrap around services or letting them serve the kids at four and us being able to shift our resources to the earlier years so that the at-risk kids in the community were getting a year of Head Start followed by a year of pre-k. Those were the kind of opportunities to partner and leverage our relationships that are deep in the community. When issues came up, that was where Community Action Agencies were much more connected to the needs of families. So just thinking about a big one we all think about as important is the issue of attendance. You know, the fact that often kids are missing during those early years is usually, in our experience, an indication of something else that’s going on in the household. And because of the kinds of orientations and relationships that we have as a Community Action Agency, we’re able to help the families meet whatever the challenges are and then help them get on a better track towards more regular attendance. And certainly in our two-generation work, the idea of providing direct services to the parents is something that’s just part and parcel of what we do as a Community Action Agency.

SH: Why do you think the President’s proposal to provide high-quality early learning and development programs for our children is important to our country and what do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities?

SD: Well, I think the platform, first and foremost of the bully pulpit, of really calling the country’s attention to the importance of early learning. The resources that communities have right now –that state and local governments have– are limited and so the role of the federal government in saying that this is not just something that we want to leave up to states and local communities, but that the federal government is going to prioritize it and begin to make its own commitments to young children, I think is critical. I think the federal government has historically been really the only significant funder of early learning for children through child care and with Title I dollars. And I think the opportunity to make an even broader commitment to not just serving the poorest of the poor kids, but really to help us understand that it’s something that other children can also benefit from and that it should be a national priority. The only way I think that we demonstrate that it truly is a national priority is when we put financial resources into the issue.

Voices from the Field

“It’s hard to find people at the state level that don’t support early childhood. But what you really need isn’t just people who say it; you need people willing to step up and advocate for it.”

Interview with Clayton Burch
Chief Academic Officer for Teaching and Learning
West Virginia Department of Education

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by Senior Policy Advisor Steven Hicks

Steven: How did you begin your career in early learning?

Clayton: It actually started in college. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was one of the college students who by the time you’re a junior reaching your senior level you think, “I need to make a decision.” I had a professor [at Marshall University] who said she had a friend who was running a local childcare center here in Huntington, and they were looking for someone to run the afterschool program for four year olds. I did that my entire junior and senior year in college and that was it—I was hooked. I knew from that point on that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in early childhood. I left the university and my first job out of college was teaching second grade in Kuwait City. I spent two years working with eight and nine year olds there. I got into some of the pre-K and kindergarten activities in the school too. Later I got a phone call from Marshal University to see if I would you be interested in coming back and running our laboratory preschool. So from 1999 to 2007, I spent eight years teaching curriculum and [providing] guidance to pre-service teachers, running their laboratory school, and doing outreach for the Southern West Virginia area on early childhood. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Steven: What can be done at the State level in improving the quality of early learning?

Clayton: It’s hard to find people at the state level that don’t support early childhood. But what you really need isn’t just people who say it; you need people willing to step up and advocate for it. Saying you support early childhood is one thing, but in the state of West Virginia, what we’ve been able to do in the last decade is we don’t just want legislators saying they support early childhood. We want to work with them so they understand how to support early childhood. We have a governor’s office and a state board of education that says we really know what we’re talking about. When they say early childhood, it’s not just kindergarten anymore in West Virginia. They want to talk birth through eight years old. And they want to have a comprehensive conversation. And I know that makes people nervous sometimes because in the state of West Virginia, we have universal preschool and kindergarten and we don’t really have authority over birth to three. But when you have folks at that level who really know how to support early childhood and they have a very clear understanding that whatever their authority is over—pre-k or kindergarten-it’s one little piece of the puzzle of birth to third grade. I think if you can get people at the state level to understand their role and whatever role that is, it goes a long way in creating a comprehensive system—and not a system that all of us in early childhood are used to: a very segmented, siloed system, whether it be birth to three, family care, home visitation, Head Start, early head start, preschool, kindergarten. We want to have a conversation that says all those siloes brought together are part of a larger context of birth through third grade. We are looking at $90 million a year in state funding just for preschool. And funding isn’t just being used in schools; its being used in collaboration with Head Start and child care. And we just saw this year the Governor putting a $5.7 million increase in first to third grade literacy. We have a brand new program that targets third grade literacy when most states are having a conversation around what does it mean if students can’t read by third grade. Are we going to retain them? West Virginia’s approach is very different because we had leadership that understood the comprehensiveness, the money is going to birth to third grade initiatives: school readiness, attendance, how to support the workforce, family engagement, and how to really put those supports in place in the community from birth to third grade, not just focusing on that third grade year.

Steven: Why is the President’s proposal to provide high-quality early learning programs for our children important to our country and what do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities?

Clayton: We see the President’s proposal almost mirroring what we’ve been doing in West Virginia: bring local folks together to understand what a comprehensive approach to four year olds looks like. And when you start talking about the opportunity, we see the opportunity if done correctly is just more and more resources earlier for our children. To have a national dialogue around four year olds is really important, but when people start understanding the return on investment, and what it means to the long term impact on society, they see we have to begin early. West Virginia is paying attention to that research like the rests of the nation. We truly believe if we can target early childhood and put more resources earlier, then that return on investment is going to be huge for our state, and I think the President’s saying the same thing. The hard thing, I think the challenges, are the same challenges West Virginia’s faced the last decade. And that is, if you put forth an early childhood initiative, especially Preschool for All, be sure you’re not redundant, you’re not duplicating services, and that it actually truly does mesh with what’s already in existence. I think one of the things we’ve done well is honor what’s already in existence. We have a long history of Head Start in this state. We have a long history of child care and family care. How does this initiative support and not supplant and duplicate those efforts? And that’s one of the challenges we continue to face. The more resources we put into early childhood, does that offer opportunity to shift some of our current resources even lower down into the birth to three year olds? I know in West Virginia when we talk about the President’s proposal, one of the things we’re interested in is does this potentially allow us to expand what we’re able to do for young children?

Transformative Family Engagement at the White House Symposium by Deputy Assistant Secretary Libby Doggett

“Transformative family engagement is more than parent involvement- it is a shared responsibility of families, schools, and communities aimed at helping students learn and achieve.” That was the central message at the White House Symposium held on July 31st, attended by members from the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Serving as a panelist, I was able to share both my professional and personal experiences. Early in my career, I served as a bilingual first grade teacher in Austin, Texas and witnessed first-hand the importance of engaging families to improve student achievement. Later and throughout my career, I continued to see the strong connection between family engagement and student success.

Family engagement provides a critical link between home and school and has a profound impact on a child’s learning. Last week’s symposium highlighted the importance of family engagement and advanced a framework to transform our thinking. Some of the key elements of this framework are seeing families from a strength-based perspective and sharing the responsibility for student success with families. We must work as partners adapting our work to the needs and priorities of a diverse array of families, helping all children learn and grow.

At ED, we are committed to supporting transformative family engagement, and some of the one-billion dollars allocated to the 20 Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) states is being spent to support families and early childhood educators to achieve this goal. All states are finding ways to improve the quality of early learning centers and communicate the quality features to families. In Delaware, for example, the Office of Early Learning has launched a new website, Great Starts Delaware, to provide families with information on the quality of early learning programs, the latest brain research, and tips on what they can do at home to support improved outcomes for their young children. Washington State has launched “Love. Talk. Play,” a campaign that seeks to equip parents with three simple things that they can do every day to help their children learn and grow: love, talk, and play.

Waiting until preschool to implement family engagement strategies, however, is too late. Hart and Risely’s groundbreaking research highlights a “30 million word gap” between children of low-income versus higher-income families —a gap that begins before age three and can continue throughout school unless interventions are put in place. Mothers with a college education or higher spend roughly 4.5 more hours more a week directly interacting with their children than do mothers with a high school diploma or less. These findings provide us with evidence-based knowledge about the importance of family engagement, and how critical it is not only in K-12 education, but especially in birth through age five.

Most parents want what’s best for their children, but many parents do not know how important their role as their child’s first teacher is. This is what true family engagement is all about: making sure parents and caregivers have the knowledge and resources they need to help children get a strong start and reach their full potential. As we continue to look for ways to support families, it is my hope that as a country we will act to support families wherever they are to ensure all our children get the strong start that is needed for success in school and later as productive citizens.

Indian Professional Development Program For Tribal Consultation

March 12, 2014

REQUEST FOR INPUT FROM TRIBAL LEADERS
The Office of Indian Education (OIE) is seeking tribal leader input on the Indian Professional Development (PD) program, one of three discretionary grant programs within the Office of Indian Education at the US Department of Education (ED). The purpose of this blog is to give tribal leaders an opportunity to comment on any aspect of this grant program including the topics listed below.

The seven topics include:

1. Job Placement
2. Area of Need
3. Recruitment and Retention of Participants
4. Induction Services
5. Costs of Training Programs
6. Types of Participants
7. Definition of Indian Organization

For each topic there is a brief overview and then a series of sample questions for which you may provide comments and/or check the appropriate box for your answer. The downloadable document is located on the STEP website located at this Indian Professional Development form link.

You have the option of submitting responses as: 1) blog comments below; 2) printing out the Indian Professional Development document, filling it out and faxing it back to OIE at: 202-205-0606; or 3) emailing the completed document to OIE at: IndianDiscretionaryConsultation@ed.gov. You are not limited to these topic areas in providing comments.

This blog is a moderated site meaning that all comments will be reviewed before they are posted. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. Please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements, as we will delete them before we post your comments. Additionally, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses in the body of your comments. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy.”

We invite your input on the sample questions provided on the document, and on any other issues that you believe the Department should consider in improving the program. Please understand that posts must be related to the PD program and should be as specific as possible. Any comments posted should be limited to 1,000 charaters. All opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments are considered informal input and ED will not respond to any posts. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We look forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions. However, the input you provide in these posts may or may not be reflected in any final PD program changes or in other policies.

o Department of Education’s linking policy
o Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement

Again, thank you for your interest to support American Indian and Alaska Native education. We look forward to hearing from you.

STATE TRIBAL EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS (STEP) CONSULTATION

March 12, 2014

REQUEST FOR INPUT FROM TRIBAL LEADERS:
The Office of Indian Education (OIE) is seeking tribal leader input on the State Tribal Education Partnership (STEP) program, one of three discretionary grant programs within the Office of Indian Education at the US Department of Education (ED). The STEP program is a grant program to support tribes’ efforts to meaningfully participate in the education of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children. We invite your input on the questions provided below, and on any other issues that you believe the Department should consider in improving the program.

The program began as a pilot in fiscal year 2012 and we want your input on how we can improve the major elements of this program based on grantees’ experience to-date, for a potential new grant competition in fiscal year 2015, pending Congressional appropriations. We are posting questions regarding any revised requirements, priorities, and selection criteria for STEP on this blog and we encourage all tribes to share their comments with us.

The program would fund the development of collaborative agreements, entered into by tribal education agencies (TEAs), State educational agencies (SEAs) and/or Local education agencies (LEAs), where the TEAs would perform certain State- or LEA-level functions under State-administered Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) formula grant programs for schools located on or near reservations (or former reservations in Oklahoma). It is important to note that the Department is not able to award formula funds, only funds appropriated for this program. Also note that eligible TEA funds under the STEP program do not include formula funds going directly to Local educational agencies.

Please understand that posts must be related to the STEP program and should be as specific as possible and limited to 1,000 characters. All opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments are considered informal input and ED will not respond to any posts. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We look forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions, however, the input you provide in these posts may or may not be reflected in any final STEP requirements, priorities, or selection criteria or in other policies.

STEP Topic Areas for Consideration
Below are four topic areas which you may respond to as blog comments or you may download a document at the STEP Resources page link: STEP form. Depending on your version of Adobe Acrobat you may be able to fill the document in online before printing. The document can then be printed, scanned and emailed back to: STEPConsultation@ed.gov when completed.

If you are inserting your comments in the blog itself, we recommend that you identify the topic number(s). You may also need to submit multiple comments depending on the length of your comments.

Topic I: Would you be in favor of a change in the STEP program, to include the goal of coordination among the SEA, LEA, public schools that are on the tribe’s reservation, and tribally-controlled schools, to facilitate the sharing of information regarding the tribe’s students?

__Yes __No

If yes, what information about students should be shared, and for what purpose(s)?

Topic II: Should this goal be accomplished through:
a) Consortia of tribes applying in concert with SEA(s), LEA(s), and/or schools, to achieve economies of scale and enable a widespread e.g., regional data system.

or

b) By single grants to TEA-SEA-LEA partnerships?

__a __b

Topic III: Would you be in favor of a change in the STEP program, to include the TEA’s involvement with not only public schools on the reservation, but also nearby off-reservation public schools that serve a certain number or percentage of students from the tribe (under agreement with affected LEAs as well as the SEA)?

__Yes __No

Topic IV: Should the STEP application require a description of the funds and other resources the grantee and its partners will use to sustain the activities funded by the grant, after the grant’s completion e.g., resources from the SEA, LEA, or Tribe)?

__Yes __No

Topic V: We are interested in what level of involvement TEAs should take on under the STEP grants. To complete this activity follow these instructions.

A. Click on the following STEP document link to access the activity.
B. The document that opens up has nine TEA topic area groupings.
C. Within each grouping are three vertical activity boxes and three blank boxes.
D. Number the activity boxes for each grouping from 1 to 3 with “1” your highest priority, “2” your second priority and so on.
E. Rank in priority order all nine topic areas (black boxes) in order of preference with “1” being your highest priority, “2” your second priority and so on.
F. Congratulations! You have identified your tribe’s preferences for administering certain SEA functions within a STEP framework.

Please feel free to explain your preferences, including a description of activities that you are already doing in the public schools. You are not limited to these topic areas in providing comments.

Submitting your STEP form to OIE
You have the following options for submitting your completed form and any additional comments to the Office of Indian Education:

1. Once you fill in the STEP form online click the button on the lower right to open up a blank email. Insert STEPConsultation@ed.gov in the address line and click send; or
2. Fill in the document online, print the document and fax to 202-205-0606 or scan and email to: STEPConsultation@ed.gov

NOTE: We are posting this document on a moderated site. That means all posts will be reviewed before they are posted. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s website policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. Please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements, as we will delete them before we post your comments. Additionally, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses in the body of your comments. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy.”

Again, thank you for your interest in this historic opportunity to support American Indian and Alaska Native education. Below are links to EDs linking policy and disclaimer statements.

o Department of Education’s linking policy
o Department of Education’s disclaimer of endorsement

Native American English Learners Re-opened its Request for Information (RFI)

The U.S. Department of Education has now re-opened its request for information (RFI) on Native American English learners. The purpose of the RFI is to gather information pertaining to the identification and placement of Native American students who are English learners in language instruction educational programs. We developed this RFI to help State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, tribes, and other interested entities identify, share, and implement practices for accurately identifying Native American students who are English learners.

We received more than 30 responses to the first posting of the RFI in March 2013 and are re-opening the response period in order to give interested parties additional time to submit written responses. All of the responses will be available to the public.

You may access this document at the following link: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-03-04/pdf/2013-04819.pdf

You may access instructions on how to respond at the following link:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/07/03/2013-16026/request-for-information-rfi-to-gather-technical-expertise-pertaining-to-the-identification-and?utm_campaign=subscription+mailing+list&utm_medium=email&utm_source=federalregister.gov#h-7

Written submissions in response to this RFI must be received by the U. S. Department of Education on or before August 2, 2013.

Request for Information To Gather Technical Expertise Pertaining to the Identification and Placement of Native American Students

On March 4, 2013, the Title III Group in the Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs office in OESE published a request for information in the Federal Register to gather information pertaining to the identification and placement of Native American students who are English learners in language instruction educational programs. The U.S. Department of Education’s goal in making this request is to help State educational agencies, local educational agencies, schools, tribes, and other interested entities identify, share, and implement practices for accurately identifying Native American students who are English learners.

You may access this document at the following link:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-03-04/pdf/2013-04819.pdf

Written submissions in response to this RFI must be received by the Department on or before 5:00 p.m., Washington, DC time, on May 3, 2013.

Summer 2011 Issue of the School Turnaround Newsletter

The Summer 2011 issue of the School Turnaround Newsletter is now available! The newsletter is a resource for states, districts, and schools who are undergoing school turnaround under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program. This issue highlights NEA’s work with SIG schools under the Priority Schools Campaign, provides an example of a successful state monitoring system, and features an interview with a principal on implementing extended learning time. Past issues of the newsletter can be found here.

The Power of Mentors

I’m headed to Dallas in a few days to give a keynote speech at the national conference of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS). I’m excited to be able to meet the wonderful staff, mentors, and mentees who are part of this organization, and to help them reaffirm their commitment to serving our neediest youth, particularly those from low-income and minority backgrounds. Studies have shown that mentors have a positive effect on all aspects of their mentees’ lives — in school, at home, and with friends. Organizations like BBBS are also critical partners for our schools and districts, to provide the necessary support our children need for academic and personal success.

This event also has a special meaning for me, because I was invited to speak by one of my own mentors, Dr. Raymund Paredes, who serves as the chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Nationwide Hispanic Advisory Council, and is currently the commissioner of higher education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. I first met Dr. Paredes as a college student at UCLA, and he’s become one of my most trusted mentors and advisors. I’m honored to be able to share my own experiences with wonderful mentors like Dr. Paredes, and to provide encouragement to current mentors who are changing lives, one on one.