CHCI Partners with NBC News’ Education Nation for Powerful Education Dialogue in Miami

On Monday, May 21, CHCI partnered with NBC News’ Education Nation in Miami for the highly successful Latino Education Forum series. The forum highlighted the important role technology is playing in the education arena, and the importance that the Latino community will play in meeting future workforce needs. Over 100 individuals including Rep. Pedro Pierluisi, education policy experts and business leaders were present for the two panels, which were moderated by Mary Gamarra, Reporter for Telemundo’s El Rojo Vivo, Actor\Director Tony Plana, and Actor\Producer Wilmer Valderrama.

CHCI President & CEO Esther Aguilera opened the forum with some powerful and encouraging words about the need to increase Latino education attainment and access to technology.  She thanked the education forum partners who worked collaboratively to make the event possible—The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Excelencia in Education, NALEO, and Comcast/NBCUniversal/Telemundo.  Finally, she expressed gratitude to The New World Center for use of its state-of-the-art facility. She then introduced Alfredo Richard, Senior Vice President, Communication and Talent Strategy, Telemundo for opening remarks. Richard provided remarks about the technology specific community service projects that Telemundo has embarked on and how they will benefit the Latino community. He then introduced Mary Gamarra, the moderator of the first panel.

Below is a brief recap of the two panels.

Keeping the Promise: Latino Education and the Emerging Role of Technology


  • Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (PR-At Large)
  • Sarita Brown, President, Excelencia in Education
  • Dr. Jose Vicente, President, Miami Dade College, North Campus
  • Jason A. Llorenz, Esq., Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership
  • Filemon Lopez, Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations, Comcast

Mary Gamarra set the stage for the discussion by highlighting how the important role that Hispanics are playing in today's and U.S.'s future workforce, since “The Hispanic community currently represents one in three new entrants into the U.S. labor force, and by 2025 Hispanics will be one of every two new workers entering the workforce and we must ensure that tomorrow's workforce has the skill sets needed to meet future workforce needs."

Gamarra then opened the discussion by asking Sarita Brown about how realistic of a goal is it that Americans will reach the 60 percent college attainment rate that many in the U.S. have embraced, and what it means for the Latino community to achieve this goal. Ms. Brown responded by stating “A 60 percent college completion rate is very realistic and we must achieve it if the U.S. is to remain at the forefront of technology and other advancements. However, this will not happen without hard work, sacrifice, and determination.”  

Gamarra then asked Rep. Pierluisi about the aforementioned demographic of one of every two new workers entering the workforce by 2025 being Hispanic and if leaders in Washington, D.C. are prepared to deal with this change and address the Latino education gap that Ms. Brown mentioned.  As to which Rep. Pierluisi responded, “Plain and simple, Hispanics are here to stay! College attainment is the key to our success.” He also went on to say, “Strong bilingual education programs are another key to the future success of the Latino youth.”

When asked how he has been able to increase education attainment levels with less funding, Dr. Jose Vicente offered that his school has faced major difficulties with the lack of government-based college funding.  He also added, “There is a major system flaw in the way that funding is distributed.” In closing, Gamarra asked panelists what could be done to better educate tomorrow’s workforce and level the playing field with our international counterparts. To which Jason Llorenz responded “that a broadband connection in the home is essential to bridge the technological divide.”Filemon Lopez added, “First, we have to solve the problem of Internet accessibility to the Hispanic community. Then, we need to start teaching our youth about Internet essentials earlier.”

An audience member posed a very interesting question for the panelists: What makes foreign countries more successful in education than the U.S.? To which Dr. Vicente answered, "Foreign countries tend to stress the importance of and teach their youth technology earlier in curriculum." In closing, the panelists agreed that this type of dialogue must continue among the Hispanic community in order to give Latino youth a fighting chance.

Young Latino Perspective – In Their Own Voices


The second panel was co-moderated by Actor\Director Tony Plana and Actor\Producer Wilmer Valderrama. The panelists included an outstanding group of young high school, college and post graduate scholars who shared their understanding of experiences, conditions, and opportunities afforded to them.


  • High School Perspective: Nayadis Couce, Mater Academy East High & Luis Calderon, Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School
  • Current College Perspective: Rose Aviles, 2011 CHCI Telemundo Scholarship Recipient, University of Miami, & Idaykis Rodriguez, Florida International University
  • Recent College Graduate: Claudia Triana, Georgetown University

The students provided in depth insights into the obstacles and personal challenges they have all faced in pursuing their academic goals. When Tony Plana asked the obstacles that are discussed amongst their peers when talking about completing high school and going to college, Calderon offered, “We discuss how we can raise our GPAs, become better students and how we will afford to pay for college.” Couce responded, “We discuss our financial situations and how we are going to be able to afford college as well.” Throughout the panel discussion, the underlying tone centered around being able to afford college for the high school students and continuing to afford college by the college students.

Plana asked the entire panel if at any point they or their friends considered dropping out of school, and if so, what kept them from dropping out.  Aviles responded, “I have considered dropping out of school numerous times, but the support of my parents has helped push me through.” Rodriguez chimed in with, “A strong support group of friends is very important. We all need support.” To which Wilmer Valderrama added, “A lot of parents are so caught up in making the bread of the day they sometimes lose focus of their child's education,” which brought about a rousing round of applause from all attendees. Valderrama asked of the current college panelists how have they financed their education? Triana stated, “One key word – sacrifice. I have worked numerous jobs, received scholarships, and maxed out credit cards, whatever it took to get it done.” And when asked by Valderrama “What would you say to a student that doesn't have the resources or support?” Triana responded, “Seek out help and positive influences that tell you that your future depends on it.”

In closing the panel, the moderators collectively asked the panelists: What are your dreams for the future? “My dream is to go to college to have a better future and help my mom and others such as me,” responded Calderon.  “My dream is to graduate with my PH.D within a year,” responded Rodriguez. Overall, the students did an excellent job sharing their stories and experiences, and in sharing their journeys, will hopefully bring more attention to the struggles of young Latino students.

NBC Education Nation Reception

The Latino Education Forum was followed by NBC News’ Education Nation reception, which was a networking event that preceded the NBC Education Nation Job One Panel.  During the reception, attendees networked and discussed the important panel dialogue. CHCI thanks all the event partners, the panelists for their insights as well as the attendees for taking the time to support this great event. CHCI applauds NBC News’ Education Nation for its commitment to elevating the issue of increasing Latino education attainment levels.

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