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2011 Hispanic Heritage Month Events-Closing Luncheon

Closing Luncheon Highlights
Keeping the Promise of Education

Orson Aguilar, 2011 CHCI Distinguished Alumnus
Chris Weitz, 2011 CHCI Excellence in Service

After the awards presentation, brief awardees remarks, and a delightful lunch, the closing session of CHCI’s Public Policy Conference commenced.

Roberto Velasco, Acting CEO, Corporation for National & Community Service
Allan Golston, President, U.S. Programs, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

“Education is an inheritance no one can take away from you” was the powerful opening statement made by Roberto Velasco, acting CEO for the Corporation for National & Community Service and former CHCI intern. For him and his brother, college was never a “maybe”; it was a “must.” And in order for the United States to remain globally competitive in the future, that is how higher education should be viewed for all Latinos—as a “must.”

Community and Financial Support Needed
The Obama administration has set a goal to raise the nation’s college graduation rate to 60 percent by 2020.  To achieve this, Velasco stated that is imperative to keep students engaged in the classroom and to provide social and community support to them starting as early as grade school.  Velasco believes in the power of leveraging outside resources, such as community members who read to students, in this endeavor.  “Children need someone to care,” he said.  That way, they will see the value of education, feel supported in their efforts, and remain engaged throughout their academic careers.  When more kids are served with targeted assistance, year by year the high school graduation rate grows.  

Roberto Velasco Discusses the Importance of Education

To continue this support, his company—Corporation for National & Community Service—has invested more than $550 million to support education, including $200 million in Segal Awards and loan repayments.  It has also developed a partnership with The White House and the Department of Education to bring these benefits to more students.  His company’s programs tutor, educate, and mentor, which in turn allows students to learn, engage, and achieve.  These initiatives also result in improved attendance and behavior, on time completion of courses, and increased test scores and graduation rates.  In closing, Velasco noted that a key component is helping students see life as a learning experience and gain the ability to thrive on new experiences.

Allan Golston Emphasizes that Effective Teachers are Critical

Effective Teachers are Essential
The luncheon keynote address was presented by Allan Golston, President, U.S. Programs for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Golston said that the foundation operates on the belief that every person should have an opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life.  The foundation’s goal is for every U.S. student to graduate from high school ready to succeed and for most to pursue postsecondary education and earn a degree.  However, the reality is that the education system is falling short wherever poverty and people of color are concentrated.

Acknowledging the difficult economic environment, Golston noted the difference between spending money and investing. “Investing,” he said, “is putting resources into something that will grow and generate benefits for tomorrow.”  America needs to invest in education.

In studying high-achieving schools, the foundation found that the most important factor for student success is effective teaching.  As such, the foundation is working with teachers to determine ways to recruit and retain effective teachers as well as examine what skills and characteristics make effective teachers.  In addition, the foundation is working with various groups with a similar, vested interest in education to study the many factors outside the classroom that can compromise those efforts.

Educational Investment:  A Two-fold Process
In order for the quality of education to improve and high school and college graduation rates to increase, the U.S. educational system needs a two-fold investment.  First, an investment in students beginning at a young age should be made to give them the support needed for lifelong achievement.  Both financial and community support is required so that students feel education is valuable and attainable.   

Second, continued investment in teachers is needed.  Studying successful schools and factors that improve graduation rates as well as determining ways to recruit and retain effective teachers for the classrooms is essential to continued improvement.  With these two critical investments, positive change in education can be made, hopefully bridging the education gap for young Latinos.

View the Photo Gallery from CHCI's Public Policy Conference Closing Luncheon.