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Latino Daily News

Monday March 28, 2011

What Does President Obama’s Townhall on Latino Education Mean for Community?

Tonight, the President will join Jorge Ramos and Univision for a townhall, “Noticias Univision Presenta: Es El Momento –El Presidente, Los Hispanos y la Educacion” speaking directly to the Hispanic community about the state of education.  The townhall will air at 7 pm ET/PT and 6 pm CT.

In anticipation of the airing of the townhall, HS News spoke exclusively with Jose Rico, Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans to get his thoughts on what all this means for the Latino community. 

Rico sees one of the goals of the town hall as a “way for the White House to communicate what we are trying to do in terms of educational reform, also making sure the Latino community knows what resources are there for them.”

For example, double the number of students are now receiving Pell grants, which means 9 million students are the beneficiaries. Then there is the Income Base Retainment initiative whereby any student that took out student loans and works for 10 years in a high need community will have their loans forgiven.  And of course the ‘Race to the Top’ is an initiative that Rico and the White House wants the community to be a part of.

Rico was emphatic that there are many resources and programs available to the communities that are not being accessed so clearly a better job in communicating to the community must be done.

There will be no new programs or initiatives announced at the town hall nonetheless Rico is confident that the parents and students in attendance as well as the general public will see the President’s sincere commitment to Latino education.

Another goal is to make sure Latino communities that are struggling due to defunding are aware that they can be part of private-public partnerships to get more resources into those communities.  The San Antonio 2020 educational initiative that was just unveiled is a program Rico was critical to and very proud of.

ImageWe asked Mr. Rico, a life-long educator and former high school principal, what creates a college bound environment for Latinos and in his opinion what is the biggest obstacle for higher education attainment for Latinos: 

“Personally, as a high school principal it was clear to me that our role was to graduate kids that would be successful in college not just claim to be high school graduates.”

“We need to send a message to everyone that going to college is the best community investment.”  “As far as obstacles, they boil down to three: a) Latinos have the least financial resources; b) lack of knowledge on how the system works, how to file out forms, how to get financial aid, and finally c) they are not prepared for the rigor of college, many Latinos are not in high schools that prepare us for success in college.” 

In closing Jose remains upbeat and hopeful for the state of education in the Latino community, reminding us that “We use to just talk about migrant education or bilingual education which remain important but the academic performance of all Latino children is important for everyone.” 

Indeed that is why the President has deemed the community’s education a ‘national priority’ concluded Rico.