WASHINGTON – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court's first Hispanic justice, swore in more than a dozen newly appointed members of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics at an official ceremony held last night at the Smithsonian Institution Castle. The Commissioners are tasked with advising President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to help improve academic excellence and opportunities for Hispanic students across the country.
The Commissioners will work closely with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to meet President Obama's goals for the nation to have the best-educated workforce in the world by 2020, and to once again lead the world in the number of college graduates.
In announcing the appointments, President Obama said, "The extraordinary dedication these men and women bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people. I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this Administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."
Juan Sepúlveda, the Executive Director of the White House Initiative, led the first meeting of the Commissioners at the White House. Sepúlveda noted that Hispanics accounted for more than half of the nation's total population growth in the last decade and will drive the growth of the workforce over the next several decades.
"Hispanics are the largest minority group in our public schools, but have the lowest educational attainment level overall," said Sepúlveda. "We have a shared responsibility to deliver a world-class education to all our children. This can't be done by parents and students alone. We must all come together – governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits – to make sure we succeed as a nation."
More than 1 in 5 students in the country's public elementary, middle and high schools is Hispanic. Less than half of all Hispanic students are enrolled in any early learning program. Only about half earn their high school diploma on time and only 4 percent have completed graduate or professional degree programs.
President's Advisory Commission chair and Miami Dade College president Eduardo J. Padrón helped Justice Sotomayor swear in his colleagues. Padrón said Hispanic success in education and the job market is important to America's economy.
"Hispanic students have graduated at lower rates than the rest of the population for years, making America's progress impossible if they continue to lag behind," said Padrón. "We must all work together to meet this challenge to make America competitive in the global contest for jobs and industries."
The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics announced the following new members of the President's Advisory Commission:
Alicia Abella of Florham Park, N.J., innovative services research director at AT&T Labs Research
Sylvia Acevedo of Austin, Texas, president and CEO of CommuniCard, LLC.
Alfredo J. Artiles of Tempe, Ariz., professor at Arizona State University
Daniel J. Cardinali of Washington, D.C., president of Communities in Schools
Francisco G. Cigarroa of Laredo, Texas, chancellor of The University of Texas System
Cesar Conde of Miami, Fla., president of Univision Networks at Univision Communications, Inc.
Luis Ricardo Fraga of Seattle, Wash., associate vice provost at University of Washington in Seattle
JoAnn Gama of McAllen, Texas, chief of schools for IDEA Public Schools
Patricia Gándara of Los Angeles, Calif., professor at University of California, Los Angeles
Maria Neira Latham, N.Y., vice president of New York State United Teachers
Lisette Nieves of New York, N.Y., social entrepreneur-in-residence at Blue Ridge Foundation
Darline P. Robles of Los Angeles, Calif., professor at University of Southern California
Ricardo Romo of San Antonio, Texas, president of The University of Texas at San Antonio
Manny Sanchez of Chicago, Ill., managing partner at Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP
Marta Tienda of Princeton, N.J., professor at Princeton University
**NOTE: High-resolution photos from this week's events are available to media representatives upon request.**