LGBT Students Give Secretary Duncan Homework

Duncan talks with LGBT students

Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.

While many students sign yearbooks and trade digits and Twitter handles as school closes, Secretary Arne Duncan began June on assignment: using student input to expand Department efforts to help eliminate bullying against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) student community.

June is LGBT Pride Month, and to kick off the month, and as part of ED’s Student Voices Sessions, the Secretary met with eight students from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network to hear directly from the students about their experiences and to discuss bullying and possible solutions.

Students shared examples of their school’s environment and the steps they’re taking to improve the climate for LGBT students. Each student mentioned the need for teachers to have sensitivity training, because many have not encountered discrimination against LGBT students and do not know how to address it.  One student approached the problem by holding a session on a teacher professional development day with the support of the principal. The student said this approach  was wildly successful, and the teachers started showing their support for LGBT students by wearing “I support” pins. “We are no longer ‘those students,’ he said. “Teachers see us as their students along with everyone else.”

Students talk with Secretary Duncan

Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood

The students were emphatic about the need for comprehensive data to  prove the widespread bullying and harassment of LGBT youth. They urged Secretary Duncan to start collecting information about behavior toward the LGBT community through the Civil Rights Data Collection. By identifying the severity and scope of LGBT bullying and harassment across the country, schools, students and families will be informed and advocates will be able to communicate concerns to schools and communities, as well as to policymakers. Knowing the nature and breadth of problems will help everyone create comprehensive solutions that work for both schools and students.

ED has helped fuel the national dialogue around bullying through two national bullying summits over the past two years, which brought together federal officials from several agencies, nonprofit leaders, researchers, parents, and youth to begin a national discussion around the issue and identify areas that need additional guidance and clarification to support bullying prevention efforts. A third summit will be held later this year. Later this week, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali will testify in a Senate hearing on bullying in schools held by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) in, Des Moines, Iowa.

Read more from our Student Voices Sessions, which are designed to engage young Americans with policy issues so that ED can learn from their perspectives to connect policies with student needs.

Samuel Ryan, Regional & Youth Outreach Associate, Office of Communications and Outreach 

Student Voices of Military-Connected Children Inspire Guidance from Secretary Duncan

Students talk with Secretary Duncan at the Department of Education

Students from MD, VA, and DC explain the challenges of having parents in the military to Secretary Duncan and Patty Shinseki.

The men and women serving in our Armed Forces make incredible sacrifices in service to our country. And so do their family members. Through multiple deployments and frequent moves, the spouses and children of service members live in constant transition.

In April—the Month of the Military Child–Secretary Duncan released a letter to school superintendents providing guidance on meeting the unique challenges faced by military-connected students.

During their K-12 education, these children move from six to nine times, and Duncan’s letter calls for school districts across the country to plan smooth transitions for them.

The letter provides additional guidance for school districts and schools (read the letter here), but what the letter fails to mention is what inspired the letter in the first place.

Earlier in April, Secretary Duncan, along with Mrs. Patty Shinseki, and Department of Defense Education Activity Director Marilee Fitzgerald, conducted a Student Voices roundtable with 21 children of service members who attend high schools in the DC area.

The discussion was part of Secretary Duncan’s Student Voices Series, which regularly engages students and increases connections between ED policies and student needs.  The students’ descriptions of their educational experiences were thoughtful and poignant, often revealing heartfelt and persuasive arguments for why we need to do more to assist school personnel in understanding the needs of 1.2 million military-connected children.

The students spoke candidly about their challenges. Many talked about the hardships one experiences when moving to new schools, including transferring course credits.  For several students, when their credits did not transfer, they could not progress through high school with their peers, and in several instances, they were not identified as “graduating seniors” at their new schools, despite the fact that they would have been “seniors” at their prior schools.

One student talked about her challenge of communicating with a deployed parent during school hours because of a “no cell phone” policy, and another explained her frustration that her high school wouldn’t be live streaming graduation so that her deployed father could watch the ceremony.

The conversation during this meeting helped Secretary Duncan understand how children are affected by policy, and contributed to the letter’s urging  schools to take immediate steps to provide assistance, including adopting and/or implementing the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.

The Secretary’s Student Voices sessions are designed for the Secretary and his senior staff to listen and learn from young Americans. But they also have an impact on policy, and in this case produced almost immediate action.  That’s one powerful example of why listening to student voices matters, and the Secretary looks forward to more such conversations,

Samuel Ryan is the co-lead for outreach to students in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

A Classroom Visit May Be Worth a Thousand Weblinks

As part of ED’s Secondary School Working Group, I’ve heard many speakers, read reams of research, and visited countless web sites to learn about student engagement — what is it that makes a student want to learn and stay in high school?

Rayna Aylward and a group of students

Rayna Aylward, far left, with Mr. Hipkins' class

But I never really understood the concept until I saw it in action at the Capital City Charter Upper School in Washington, D.C.  As part of National Teacher Appreciation Week, more than 50 ED staffers around the country went “Back to School” for a day to shadow teachers.  It was my luck to shadow Julian Hipkins III, an 11th grade U.S. History teacher giving a lesson on the Vietnam War.

But “giving” may not be the operative verb. Class began with a rapid-fire session to define “war.” Students came up with words and phrases and Mr. Hipkins circled back with prompts and questions.  Next, the students talked in small groups about what they knew of the Vietnam War; summaries were posted on the walls, and then the students walked around and added comments to one another’s ideas.

After a short reading/reflection time, the students rotated through a fishbowl-style role play, with half the inner circle playing “French government/business leaders” and the other half “Viet Minh supporters.”  The goal was to persuade President Truman (played by Mr. Hipkins) to support their respective cause.  The crisscrossing dialogue went so fast that no one wanted to stop when the buzzer sounded.  The students switched between inner circle and observers, and the next round whipped by.   At the end, there were more questions than conclusions, and the air seemed electric.

For a solid 75 minutes, every student had been on task and animated.  If I had to calculate, I’d say the voice ratio was about 20/80 teacher/student.  The lesson was a constant flow of ideas and discoveries, guided by the teacher but powered by the learners.

The bell rang for the next class.  Mr. Hipkins handed out a homework assignment – a Venn diagram on the Vietnam and Iraq Wars – and the students filed out trailing word clouds of McNamara and the Gulf of Tonkin.  I myself am still buzzed, and I just filled out the diagram.

Now that’s engagement!

Rayna Aylward is a special assistant in the Office of the Secretary

ED Shows Appreciation by Walking a Day in 50 Teachers’ Shoes

ED Employees went back to school

Steven Hicks, special assistant for early learning, spent the day shadowing a kindergarten teacher at Oyster-Adams bilingual school in DC as part of "ED Goes Back to School."

As I entered the U.S. Department of Education building on the morning of May 9, something felt different. Many offices usually filled with buzzing conversations were empty. Many of my colleagues weren’t in the building. They were in area schools shadowing a teacher.

As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, 50 ED staff in Washington D.C. and across the country participated in “ED Goes Back to School.” Senior officials and career staff, matched with a classroom teacher, spent a full or half day experiencing the life of a teacher. Some co-taught while others observed. Some participated with small groups while others worked with students one-on-one. Regardless of the role they played in the classroom, everyone agreed that the experience was transformational.

“Everything I have done in the last five years was affirmed today,” shared music teacher Mike Matlock.

In a meeting with the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that evening, teachers and ED staff shared stories from the day and implications for their work.

Massie Ritsch, Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs and Outreach Services, spoke of dissecting a pig at Ballou Senior High School. Mike Humphreys, a National Board Certified P.E. teacher at Patrick Henry Elementary School, shared that his shadow, David Hoff, proved to be a great sport throughout the day, even when getting hit in the leg with an errant T-ball bat. Lisa Jones, a 3rd grade teacher at Watkins Elementary School, spoke lovingly about how her shadow, Ann Whalen, Director of Policy and Program Implementation, didn’t hesitate to dance along with the “Fraction Shuffle.”

Through story after story, I sensed true appreciation for the rigorous work that teachers do every day. “Throughout the day I was amazed by teachers who understand the needs of all students,” reflected Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, who shadowed Flora Lerenman and Caitlin Kevill’s 2nd grade class at Tyler Elementary School. “I loved that when you walk into their classroom, you have no idea who is the special education teacher and who isn’t.”

ED Goes Back to School PhotoThere were also implications for the work we do at ED.

After spending a day in a turnaround school with Mary Balla, a Spanish teacher at Anacostia High School, Suzanne Immerman indicated that the culture of high expectations is helping to transform the school, but she also acknowledged that we need to recognize that real change takes time.

Many spoke of the strong relationships they witnessed between teachers and students and thought aloud about how we might value students’ social and emotional needs more in the Department’s programs and policies.

Audra Polk, a theater teacher at Ballou Senior High drove this point home. “Teaching is nothing at Ballou if you don’t have a relationship with your students,” she said.

Everyone agreed that ED needs to create a new tradition of going back to school, and to do so more often.  Some staff called for this to be a quarterly event; Secretary Duncan and teachers agreed.

The day that began with an eerily quiet building in the morning had become filled with excitement, conversation, and laughter by evening. Relationships were built, lessons were learned, and teachers were truly appreciated.

Geneviève DeBose is a Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan from Bronx Charter School for the Arts. She wants to give a shout-out to her father, Dr. Herman DeBose, who shadowed her for two days during her 3rd year of teaching. That experience was the inspiration for “ED Goes Back to School.”

Viva la Revolution! State Teachers of the Year Advise ED about Teacher Policy

At the end of a week of activities in Washington to honor the accomplishments of the state Teachers of the Year, those teachers engaged in a conversation about how to improve the teaching profession.

It began as ten small-group discussions about the new RESPECT Project to elevate the teaching profession. But it grew into a passionate plea by the teacher leaders for total transformation, as representatives from each of the small groups addressed the room at large. “Our key concern is making sure this project is moving along at a faster pace,” the first teacher reported to officials at the U.S. Department of Education.  “As a nation we need to elevate the status of the profession and change the culture of teaching.”

Teachers of the Year at ED

Teachers of the Year at ED. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Johnson

As the two-hour session continued, teachers called on one another to lead the change of the profession.  “If we want to see radical change, we need radical reform,” said Alvin Davis, the State Teacher of the Year from Florida.

Alana Margeson (Maine) urged both the Department and teachers to put systems in place to implement changes, arguing that without practical solutions, the vision would go nowhere. “Any idea without legs will never walk you very far,” she urged.

When asked to describe how they lead their profession from the classroom, one by one, the teachers described their strategies and pressed one another to be agents of real transformation:

    • “I teach because I want to change the script.” Elena Garcia-Velasco (Oregon)
    • “Anything worthy of your passion is worthy of your preparation.” Tyronna Hooker (North Carolina)
    • “I believe we can always do things better.” Mark Ray (Washington)
    •  “The duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution.” Chad Miller (Hawaii)

Because of their passion and courage, I left the meeting with these teachers with ideas about how to improve the RESPECT Project.  Mostly I felt encouraged about my profession and the future of teaching because of their inspiration.  Viva la revolution!

Laurie Calvert

Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education, an English teacher on loan temporarily from her school in Buncombe County, N.C

FAFSA Hosts #AskFAFSA “Twitterview” on Life After College

Graduation season is upon us. In an effort to help students across the country prepare to make the transition from college to career, @FAFSA hosted a Twitter Q&A session with career expert, Lindsey Pollak yesterday. Lindsey provided great advice on researching and applying for jobs and @FAFSA jumped in with information and tips for managing and repaying your student loans after graduation.

You can see the entire Q&A below:

Read More

Nevada District Finds Success in Turning Around

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of vising Dilworth STEM Academy for 7th and 8th graders in Sparks, Nevada to meet with Washoe County School District (WCSD) leadership and school staff. This district serves 63,000 and has had amazing success in turning around what just two years ago was an underperforming district. My congratulations go out to 2011 Nevada Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Heath Morrison; Deputy Superintendent Jane Woodburn; and President of the 2011 Nevada School Board of the Year, Ken Grein, and their dedicated partners and staffs. And a special thanks to Principal Tom Wortman of Smithridge Elementary School, Principal Wanda Shakeenab of Sparks High School, and Principal Laura Petersen of Dilworth Middle School who took the time to spend their morning with me.

In Nevada, where the dropout rate is 24 percent above the national average, WCSD’s high school graduation rates in 2009 were below the state average, and the district was in desperate need of help. Dr. Morrison put in place a strategic plan with the goal of getting every child to graduation, supported, in part, by a U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grant (SIG) and a $9 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant. Despite cuts in funding from the state, Dr. Morrison and his committed team set ambitious goals and began instituting innovative solutions to drive dramatic change.

The district expanded early learning programs, focused on developing a workforce-ready curriculum, and stressed the importance of professional learning communities grounded in student learning data to inform and improve instruction. District leadership also enhanced its teacher evaluation system to better recognize key drivers of student learning.

Partnerships were formed with local colleges and universities to help inform curriculum development and ensure that students graduated ready for college without the need for remedial courses. With the estimated cost of remedial education being $5.6 billion nationwide, these are the kind of efforts we need to ensure that our students are fully prepared to not only get to college but to graduate from college.

Equally as impressive was the work that was done to educate and collaborate with the community. Working with business leaders, parents, and advocacy groups, the district created “Parent University,” with twenty-two organizations to offer over 200 classes to help families help their children succeed.

And the results are staggering. After four years of stagnating graduation rates, the graduation rate in WCSD has increased 14 percent to 70 percent in just two years! Every single school in the district has improved, and the district overall has seen the most growth in graduation rates among black and Hispanic students, as well and English learners.

While we sometimes hear that a focus on outcomes can limit innovative thinking and student engagement, WCSD students are more engaged than ever. The district’s High School Signature Academies serve as hubs for learning, and focus on areas such as health sciences, digital technologies, and sustainable resources. In Nevada, where the unemployment rate is 13 percent, the highest in the country, these academies are providing the skills necessary for the 21st Century workforce. Any 8th grade student can apply to attend these academies, providing students the choice and motivation to challenge themselves and actively engage in learning.

This work is not easy, but it is vital. The district made courageous decisions and formed crucial partnerships to ensure success and their work deserves to be commended. In a state where currently only 1 in 10 high school freshmen go on to graduate from college, WCSD has demonstrated that in the words of Superintendent Morrison, “demography need not be destiny” when it comes to providing a world-class education for all students.

Tony Miller is Deputy Secretary of Education

Dynamic Dialogue and Shared Experience at Miami Summit

More than 200 Latino leaders convened earlier this month in Miami for the White House’s Hispanic Community Action Summit at Miami-Dade College (MDC), a fitting venue for the forum as the nation’s largest community college and one renowned for graduating the largest numbers of both Latino and minority youths.

Eduardo Padrón, MDC president and chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, welcomed business and civic leaders, administrators, educators and students to the daylong session. Padron emphasized the link between America’s economic progress and that of Hispanics, and that, as the fastest-growing community in the U.S., Hispanics must be better prepared to succeed both academically and economically if America is to compete globally.

Jose Rico, the new executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and Julie Rodriguez, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, provided a concise overview of the status of employment, housing, immigration, education, and health care. These presentations provided an excellent foundation for the roundtable discussions that ensued throughout the day.

The roundtable discussions focused on issues important to the Latino community: job creation; immigration reform; high-quality education; the impact of suspension and expulsion on Latino youths; recruitment and retention of K-12 teachers; holistic health programs; funding for Latino students; access to credit; and the status of the local Head Start program; among others. The format spurred engaging conversations and the spontaneous sharing of ideas. I was especially impressed with the abundance of expertise that participants were able to share with their groups. The students, in particular, speaking from their own experience, offered the group a good deal of wisdom. The conversations were effective at airing a range of problems and providing recommendations.

The officials and organizers present throughout the day did an excellent job of moving through the roundtable discussions, providing expertise and content when necessary, and serving to stimulate the conversation. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Participants expressed a desire to continue the collaboration, good will and conversation initiated at the summit.

Modesto E. Abety-Gutierrez is the founding president and CEO of The Children’s Trust and a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. 

Technology Can Revolutionize Education for College Students with Disabilities

Student Voices Discussion

Secretary Duncan listens to students from Montgomery County Public Schools (Md.) and Project Eye-to-Eye based in New York State (Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood).

Having a disability should not stop any student from pursuing higher education. And through a unique program in Montgomery County, Md., high school students are proving that a disability is not an obstacle to a college education.

Several students from Project Eye-to-Eye recently visited ED as part of the Secretary’s monthly Student Voices series, where they joined Secretary Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Alexa Posny, to discuss college equity and accessibility for students with disabilities.

During the meeting, the discussion kept coming back to inclusion in K-12 schools. Research shows that when students with disabilities attend the same courses as their peers, they will have a better chance of attending college.

At the college level, issues in educating students with disabilities are often different from those affecting K-12 education, and the instructional climate is changing. Taken together, these trends call for a systematic method of accommodating diverse learning needs at the postsecondary level, even though the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not apply to higher education.

“With reasonable accommodations, I have succeeded in college,” said Isaiah Walker a senior at Columbia University, who wants to continue higher education and pursue a law degree. “At times, it was as simple as having extended time to complete an exam or having the option to utilize assistive technology devices to take class lectures,” he said.

In many cases, providing an effective assistive technology tool is considered a reasonable accommodation. “As a student who has a visual impairment, providing screen magnification software has provided me access to my school’s library services and to computers for reading, writing, and research—skills that I am using throughout my college career,” another student shared.

In order to access and use technology tools effectively in college, students with disabilities must be adequately prepared in high school. A common theme voiced from all students sitting around the Secretary’s conference table—many with iPads and smartphones—is that teachers and professors need to be trained and encouraged to allow the use of technology, especially for students with diverse needs.

Technology is seen by students as a tool for inclusion. By helping them communicate with their peers and organize their thoughts, they are better equipped to enter the 21st century work environment. In order to compete on a global level, “Our nation needs to take a leadership role; we need a technological revolution,” Duncan remarked.

Sam Ryan, Associate for Regional and Youth Outreach.

Since the Student Voices meeting, ED has released a report from the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities. The report sets forth recommendations for the effective use of AIM at the postsecondary level. Click here to read the report.

How Can Parents and Teachers Partner to Improve Student Achievement?

Secretary Duncan often repeats the call that parents need to be in full partnership with teachers in learning and understanding, making the education of their child a shared responsibility that includes teachers, parents and students.

For teachers– whose schedules are often quite full—finding ways to engage and partner with parents can seem overwhelming. Secretary Duncan recently took to Twitter to hear directly from teachers on the most effective ways to build partnerships with families and communities. Arne received an overwhelming response from teachers across the country, and most who responded felt communication early in the year and positive communication throughout the year were beneficial ways to partner with parents, families, and communities.

Below are just a few of the responses from teachers who suggested ways in which the school may effectively build partnerships with parents, families, and communities.

Incorporating these suggestions may add just a few more minutes to a teacher’s day, but will bring about benefits to the student-teacher-parent relationship that will last a lifetime.

Follow Arne on Twitter here, or sign up to receive a daily email with a summary of ED and Arne’s tweets.

Carrie Jasper

Carrie Jasper works in the Office of Communications and Outreach

Overcoming Challenges in Racine, Wisconsin

The same students who raised $5,000 last year for a Racine, Wisconsin food pantry sit with their lunch trays on their laps in the hallways and stairwells at Walden III middle and high school.

Walden students

Students from Racine’s Walden III middle and high school -- which includes its original Civil War-era construction -- pack-up trucks with food items they collected for the Racine County Food Pantry.

With every square foot converted to classroom use, there is no lunchroom in Walden, a school building that dates to around 1863. As one of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011-2012 Teaching Ambassador Fellows, I had the opportunity to visit the school to learn about its infrastructure challenges with Assistant Secretary of Communications and Outreach Peter Cunningham and regional OCO staffer Julie Ewart earlier this month.

Space is not the only thing at a premium at Walden — so is heat. According to the teacher leading our tour, Walden’s antiquated boiler system creates temperature variations of up to 30 degrees from one room to the next in the winter. Yet, with great pride a senior girl describes how students raised funds to purchase insulation for a home adjacent to the school grounds. She talks about how shocked she and fellow classmates were when they learned their neighbor was shivering in an un-insulated house. The students saw a need and acted on it.

As we climbed the creaking steps to the second floor AP English classroom, we noticed that the orange carpeting on the upstairs hallway is buckled and ripped in many places, reinforcing the theme that this building is tired and in desperate need of renovation.

During the visit, we watched a short video highlighting philanthropic projects completed by Walden students. The video, shown on a newly installed SMARTBoard, drew its power from the only functioning electric outlet in this classroom. This single power source looks precarious at best; there are way too many cords running to other parts of the classroom from an auxiliary powerstrip.

Students at Walden are like children everywhere. They are resilient and resourceful. These students are committed to helping their community. Which leads me to the question–to what degree is the greater community, Racine and beyond, committed to helping them?

While students are achieving at Walden, they and their teachers need to overcome challenges of their historic but ancient facility that are barriers to learning — or worse, accidents waiting to happen — every day. The American Jobs Act, which would fund some of the long overdue renovations in Racine and across the country, could help provide the means necessary to overcome these challenges, and ultimately allow Walden students and teachers to focus on education and giving back to the community.

Leah Lechleiter-Luke

Leah Lechleiter-Luke is a Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches English and Spanish in Mauston, Wisconsin.

From the Inland Empire to the White House: Building Community and Winning Our Future

On Nov. 5, 2011, more than 300 community stakeholders from the San Bernardino and Riverside counties (the Inland Empire) and others from Los Angeles and northern California joined several senior Obama administration officials for a White House Hispanic Community Action Summit at the University of California, Riverside, Riverside, Calif.  This summit was one of several White House tours across the country aimed at connecting local communities directly with White House leadership, including policy officials who focus on health, education, immigration, civil rights, community engagement, and job creation.

To begin the day, Secretary of Labor and southern California native Hilda Solis welcomed the community via video and assured participants that our local concerns are also national concerns—especially given the demographics, challenges and possibilities unique to the region.

White House Community Hispanic Community Action Summit

Photo by Carlos Puma

Before lunch, Jose Rico, deputy director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics introduced the “Open Space” process to engage the community.  The Open Space process gives community members the opportunity to dialogue on topics of shared interest.  There were more than 30 community-driven Open Space sessions, including Hispanic small business ownership, environmental issues and the Hispanic community, immigration, and various topics in education.  The  format allowed participants to discuss similar interests, share frustrations and challenges, and devise plans to respond.  Participating stakeholders included parents, teachers, high school and college students, university faculty and administrators, business owners, retired educators, nonprofit leaders, clergy, and others who were present and contributed to the rich dialogue and perspective.  One of the most well attended and productive sessions focused on “Defining a Quality Education in the Inland Empire,” which addressed the dropout crisis, set clear education attainment goals for the region, and engaged in cross-institutional collaboration.  This session resulted in a concrete plan to establish a region-wide collaborative aimed at addressing issues of equity and opportunity for all children in the Inland Empire.

Prior to the “Open Space” sessions, the summit provided a series of intense, quick workshops that provided attendees with an overview of the many efforts aimed to improve the lives of Latinos across the country. Participants were able to hear from the dozen or so officials about the work in their respective agencies. For example, we learned that the proposed American Jobs Act is estimated to bring California $2.8 billion for modernization efforts to rebuild crumbling buildings and classes, which could help the state begin work on long overdue upgrades to schools and classrooms, supporting an estimated 36,600 jobs and $3.6 billion — enough to prevent an estimated 37,300 teacher layoffs for one school year. In the area of higher education, the administration increased Pell Grants in order to make college more affordable and reminded the public about the underused Income Based Repayment (IBR) program and a proposal to cap student loan payments to 10% of discretionary income for some current students during to help in this challenging economy.

At the close of the summit, Rico led a “News of the Day” discussion that focused on the reflections and progress from the day.  Many participants were grateful for the summit and were impressed by the Hispanic presence in President’s Obama’s administration.  One participant noted that the administration’s work and community engagement are inspiring for us all at the local level.

This White House Community Hispanic Community Action Summit served a much-needed role in galvanizing community stakeholders who might not have otherwise connected with one another.  White House officials not only sent a strong message to the Inland Empire that we are on the national radar, but the summit participants also demonstrated their passion, interest and expertise in responding to local challenges facing our region.  This willingness to collaborate on the part of both entities was apparent, and many walked away feeling that our challenges and hopes in the Inland Empire are not just local matters, but part of the administration’s national priority.

Louie F. Rodriguez is an assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino, and the  principal investigator for The PRAXIS Project.