First Bright Spot in Hispanic Education Google + Hangout Highlights Local Efforts on College Access for Latino Students

Posted by Maria Pastrana Lujan, Senior Advisor, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

On November 18, 2015, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics launched its Bright Spots in Hispanic Education Google+ Hangout sessions. The inaugural event highlighted the tremendous efforts of Bright Spots focused on college access for all students, in including Latino and undocumented students around the country. Executive Director, Alejandra Ceja and U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, Leslie Acosta, were joined by representatives from Bright Spots in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas on a dynamic and informative discussion featuring promising practices and strategies supporting college access and other efforts helping reduce the academic achievement gap for Hispanics.

This year, the national high school graduation rate rose to 81 percent, the highest in history, in part due to the high numbers of Latino students graduating. Ensuring they have access to a postsecondary education and providing them the tools and resources to enroll

Initiative Staff conducting Google Hangout

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics staff at Google + Hangout on College Access on November 18, 2015.

is critical. The number of Hispanic youth enrolled in college has reached a record high, 2.4 million. However, Hispanics continue to lag other groups when it comes to earning a bachelor’s degree (Pew Research Center, 2015). Bright Spots featured are helping to combat this disparity through their efforts.

“Educators should focus on [college access] as early as the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade” because waiting until the junior or senior year of Latino students can be too late,” Carina Soto, Program Manager, Career and College Clubs.

The approaches vary and are tailored to their student needs. The Unidos Project at the University of New Mexico takes a holistic approach on mentorship, or as they call it, “academic coaching.” The program has seen a historic increase in undergraduate retention rates. College Spring, a California-based organization, is focused on improving SAT scores, navigation of college admissions, and supporting the financial needs of students. Undergraduates have the opportunity to mentor and tutor under supported youth through their personal experience and knowledge while also receiving academic credit. One-by-One, in East Moline, Illinois, motivates 7th and 8th graders by having them visit college campuses and introducing them to community leaders of color to help them envision themselves succeeding.

Bright Spots also heard about the efforts on behalf of the Administration to help increase access and ensure affordability to a postsecondary education. We know that our students cannot wait for the support they need to achieve their dreams of a higher education. It is inspiring to see local, state and national efforts join in what President Obama calls a “shared responsibility.” In order to once again lead the world with the highest number of postsecondary education degree attainment, we must continue working together, learning from one another and expanding access to college and career.

The next Google+ Hangout will take place on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 on Early Learning. We hope you will join us as we work together to move the needle on progress for Hispanic students across the nation.

Initiative Staff conducting Google Hangout

Participant Bright Spots on Hispanic Education for College Access:

Career and College Clubs (Based in Manhattan Beach, California with sites in Colorado, Texas, Ohio, and Washington D.C.) , College Forward (Austin, Texas), Metas Program (San Jose, California), One-by-One (Glenview Middle School, East Moline, Illinois) Adults Achieving a College Education (AACE) in Rio Salado College (Tempe, Arizona), the University of North Carolina Wilmington Centro Hispano (Wilmington, North Carolina), and Unidos Project (Albuquerque, New Mexico).

U.S. Department of Education college access resources:

College Scorecard:

Financial Student Aid tool kit:

Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth

Bright Spots in Hispanic Education national catalog:

To view the full engagement video here:

New Resource Guide Helps Undocumented Students Achieve Their Dreams

This was crossposted on the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education released a resource guide to support undocumented students in high school and college. The guide aims, “to ensure that all students have access to a world-class education that prepares them for college and careers.”

The effort will help individuals and organizations invested in education better support undocumented youth, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The guide’s objectives include: helping educators and school staff support undocumented students academically, debunking misconceptions and clarifying undocumented students’ legal rights, sharing information about financial aid options, and supporting youth to apply for DACA consideration or renewal.

Resources like those listed in the guide were critical for me. As an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland and the first intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics who was a DACA recipient, I have been directly impacted by the resources and tools provided by the Obama administration which help improve the educational trajectory of undocumented students.

When my family moved from Colombia to the United States, I was six years old. I would have never imagined having the opportunities that DACA afforded me. DACA allowed me to continue pursuing my dreams of a obtaining a quality higher education. As a DACA recipient, I was able to apply for and obtain a Hispanic Scholarship Fund scholarship and become a Frank Karel Fellow in Public Interest Communications. And, I was able to get a driver’s license, which allowed me to drive to and from campus, making my education more accessible.

For undocumented youth in the U.S., the future can feel uncertain. Yet it is deeply significant and helpful that schools continue to welcome all students regardless of status, educators and counselors remain trustworthy and understanding of the sensitivity around this critical issue, and students have access to resources that support their attainment of a higher education, including financial aid options. Absent of true immigration reform, and as I work towards helping ensure a brighter future for more Latinos, including undocumented youth and DACA recipients, I will continue to share my story with the hope that more students will come out of the shadows and apply for DACA.

Since 2012, more than 680,000 young people who were brought to the United States as children have received DACA. The majority of these applicants are of Hispanic origin. Research indicates that about 1.5 million undocumented youth in the U.S. are currently eligible for DACA and that 400,000 more young people will be eligible in coming years. The new Resource Guide is an invaluable tool for educators who are dedicated to supporting the educational attainment and success of all their students, including those who are undocumented. For me, receiving DACA was a life-changer, allowing me to reach my full potential.

Access the resource guide here.

Karen Vanegas is an intern at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

#LatinosAchieve When We Believe in Them

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education’s blog, Homeroom

Today, a high school education is simply not enough. The global, knowledge-based economy that we live in means that some post-secondary education, whether that be a 2-year degree, a 4-year degree, a certificate or a credential, is essential. Which is why we must invest in the educational future of our Hispanic youth. Hispanic youth are in large part the face of our nation and our next generation of leaders. So we need to invest in them if we want to be serious about our future. Although Hispanic high school dropout rates hit a record low at 13 percent in 2012, they’re still higher than any other demographic. Hispanic youth will represent 70 percent of population growth in our country between 2015 and 2060, and are rapidly growing faster than any other minority group. It is our duty to make sure that our next generation of politicians, teachers, CEOs, engineers and entrepreneurs are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.

Progress is being made but not nearly fast enough. And for me, this isn’t simply an intellectual matter. As a Puerto Rican, I’ve seen first-hand how the power of a great education can change lives across the country, as well as back home on the island that gave birth to my mother.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud to lead First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative. We work to inspire young people to take control of their future by exposing students to college and career opportunities, making financial aid and college affordability a reality, supporting academic and summer planning, and investing in school counselors. We want young people, including Hispanics, to know that education after high school has to be part of their plan. That enrolling and completing college is essential to ensuring their achievement and success.

When speaking at the 85th Annual Conference of the League of United Latin American Citizens last year, the First lady spoke about the need for investing in education for Hispanic youth. She said, “As you know, too many young people in the Latino community simply aren’t fulfilling their potential… We have got to … reignite that hunger for opportunity — that hunger for education – across all of our communities. And we all have a role to play in this endeavor. Parents have to be reading to their kids from an early age and making sure they go to school every day and do their homework every night. Our young people, you have a role to play as well. You have to make education your number-one priority and be role models for those around you.”

The efforts led by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, including their nearly $340 million in public and private sector commitments and the U.S. Department of Education’s work to make college accessible and affordable are key to ensuring this population has the tools they need to achieve.

This issue requires all-hands-on-deck approach to make sure students and families are getting access to the resources and information to help make college a reality. That might be filling out the FAFSA, which gives students access to $150 billion in aid for college, or talking to your school counselor, who can help students or families navigate the application process. It also means taking rigorous, college-ready courses like Advanced Placement; and it means thinking about getting internships and mentorship programs that can help young people see the value of a college degree.

We also need to make the process easier. President Obama and the First Lady have been working hard to create and promote tools such as the College Scorecard to help make students find the best college value and fit. They also recently announced that starting in 2016, students can begin filling out the FAFSA three months earlier, so that financial aid can be secured earlier and in time to help make college decisions.

To the young Hispanics who are now in the swing of school, challenge yourselves to take your education seriously. Start talking to your parents about finances, take challenging classes, build strong bonds with your teachers and administration, join clubs and extracurriculars that will expose you to new things, and most importantly believe in yourselves. Believe that you can achieve and do whatever you put your mind to; starting with college. Because we do.

Eric Waldo is the Executive Director for the Reach Higher Initiative

Engaging Families, Ensuring Education Success: A Back-to-School Tour with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

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

In Springdale, Arkansas, the Hispanic population grew by more than 150 percent between 2000 and 2011, largely driven by the arrival of mostly Hispanic immigrants. The school district’s public school population is now 44 percent Hispanic, and its English Learner population is also 44 percent of students. The city has done a remarkable job of embracing their newest community members and ensuring that all students and families are supported.

As part of ED’s Back-to-School Bus Tour, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) visited Springdale to learn about the city’s community integration efforts. For the visit, WHIEEH collaborated with the Cisneros Center for New Americans, an organization that works to accelerate the integration of new Americans into American society. One stop was at an early childhood center where newly enrolled families pose for portraits that are placed in the classroom, to help ease the child’s transition and alleviate separation anxiety. Coffee sessions between new and veteran parents help familiarize families with the center and the community.

Another stop included the Turnbow Elementary School family literacy program where parents attend English language classes and scheduled PAC or “Parent and Child” time, in which parents join their children in class. They also learn about other subjects, including safety and financial assistance, from community partners such as the police and fire departments and local banks.

A mother described the program’s impact on her and her daughter: “When I signed up for this program, I saw my daughter with a huge smile, so I know it really mattered to her that I was in it,” she said.

At the Language Academy at Har-Ber High School, newly arrived students write their aspirations on classroom walls. These not only remind students to work hard, but they also provide instructors with daily reminders of their own role in helping all students reach their full potential.

The Academy has served to support integration into the larger community.

“The Language Academy helped me communicate with other people,” one student said. “At first, I didn’t know the basics …and now I’m in a regular class. I know all the things that the teacher tells me, and how they teach me and help me so much.”

A town hall for leaders from throughout the community provided context for the school district’s work. Superintendent Jim Rollins provided an overview of the district’s comprehensive efforts and a panel of experts discussed best practices on immigrant integration.

“Education is the great equalizer – quality education is accessible to immigrant families in Springdale,” said Professor William Schwab, University of Arkansas.

Throughout the tour, it was evident that efforts to break down language barriers and motivate students to succeed in and out of the classroom are making a difference.

Springdale’s family engagement and integration vision and efforts were recognized in aRace to the Top-District grant award in 2013. The program helps localities develop plans to personalize and improve student learning, increase educational opportunities, and provide resources that lead to a high-quality learning experience.

The program has enabled Springdale to provide 100 additional preschool slots to the community’s children and draw up plans to expand their family literacy program to each of their 30 schools.

The commitment to immigrant integration through family engagement is in the soul of the Springdale community. Superintendent Rollins put it best: “Those are the kind of things that can happen when you embrace children and help them find their true potential and promise.”

Emmanuel Caudillo is a Special Advisor for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Progress in Action: Celebrating Hispanic Educational Achievement

Crossposted from the President Obama and the Hispanic Community blog.

The following article was published on You can read the original article in Spanish HERE.

Each year, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month we recognize and celebrate the rich histories and significant contributions made by Hispanics throughout this great nation. With over 54 million people, Hispanics are the largest, youngest, and fastest-growing minority group, and will represent 70 percent of our nation’s population growth between 2015 and 2060. From preschool to postsecondary education, Hispanic representation is palpable. Hispanics now make up the majority of students in our public schools, with 1 out of every 4 students in K-12 grades. Similarly, college enrollment is up more for Hispanics than any other group.

Earlier this year the President said that 2014 would be a “year of action”. In this spirit, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (Initiative) officially launched our “Anniversary Year of Action” – a call to action to expand upon the progress and achievement made in Hispanic education.

As a community, we have made significant progress. According to the Census Bureau (2011), the Hispanic high school dropout rate has been cut in half from 28 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2011.The  Hispanic graduation rate has increased to 76 percent – an all-time high. College enrollment among Hispanics reached a record high and continues to increase. In 2012, the college enrollment rate among 18-to-24-year-old Hispanic high school graduates was over 49 percent, up from 31 percent in 2002.

We recognize there is more work to do and that it’s a shared responsibility—everyone will have a role to play in ensuring the continued success of our community. Over the coming year we will highlight “Bright Spots” that are providing a quality early childhood education, robust and rigorous K-12 education experiences, supporting increased participation in STEM courses, promoting promising practices, partnerships, and institutions of higher education that are graduating more Latinos ready and prepared to enter the competitive workforce, preparing more Hispanics into the teaching profession, while highlighting collaborative efforts supporting our young Hispanic girls and boys through the President’s initiative My Brother’s Keeper.

We will continue working towards the President’s 2020 goal of once again leading the world in college completion. Over the last 12 months, the Initiative has been deeply committed to amplifying the Administration’s education agenda, building partnerships and expanding commitments to support education for Hispanics, while also highlighting the Hispanic community’s progress. Through a number of activities – from national policy forums and back-to-school tours to webinars and twitter chats – we reached over 100,000 stakeholders around the United States and Puerto Rico. We heard from parents, students, non-profit, state and local government, business and philanthropy leaders, and educators about their work and challenges. Through strategic outreach and engagement, we learned that the Hispanic community is not only making great strides but eager to reframe the narrative.

We look forward to building on previous successes and producing more helpful tools like our “¡Gradúate! A Financial Aid Guide to Success”, published this May. The bilingual guide – designed to help students and families navigate the college enrollment and financial aid process includes key information about federal financial aid resources available and on scholarships supporting all Hispanic students, including those granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and non-U.S. citizens. We will continue to work towards increasing the number of Hispanic teachers through innovative strategies, such as our #LatinosTeach social media campaign launched this month.

And just this Monday, the White House, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, honored Latino Educators “Champions of Change” who are doing extraordinary work to educate the next generation of Americans. These Champions have distinguished themselves by devoting their time and energy to creating opportunities for young people to succeed, particularly in low-income communities. The event showcased these leaders and the exceptional contributions to this country. Because, we know that by highlighting progress in action, we will ensure a bright future for the Hispanic community.

Alejandra Ceja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

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.”

Read More