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Meeting with Latino Leaders Across the U.S.

Latino community leaders remain at forefront of the President's agenda for the Hispanic community.

Director Mayorkas joined Chicago area business leaders As I travel across the country to meet with various higher education organizations, I have also had the opportunity to meet with Latino community leaders to share with them the Administration’s initiatives and to hear about their concerns and accomplishments.  I have been struck by their dedication to their communities, their commitment to our country, and their determination to provide a better future for their children.  The President’s 2020 education goal is deeply resonant with them and with the communities that they serve.

In a suburb of San Diego, Gary and Kathleen Acosta graciously opened their home to me and about a dozen colleagues and friends from the real estate industry, the arts, and academia so I could share with them the President’s agenda for the Hispanic community.  Gary is an officer of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, and through his leadership, that organization has embraced improving the educational level of the Latino community as one of its goals.  The group was keenly interested in what the Department of Education is doing to improve teacher effectiveness.  Experiences with the occasional teacher who is a poor performer but is allowed to continue to shortchange students was a particular concern of several of Gary’s guests who have school-age children.

In Miami, White House Initiative Director Juan Sepulveda, Deputy Director Jose Rico, and Miami-Dade College president Eduardo Padrón (mi tocayo, as he always says) put together an all-star cast of the leading Latino figures in business and government.  Miami is a vibrant community that has been transformed by the Cuban-American community into the U.S. gateway to Latin America, and the individuals assembled at Miami-Dade are the movers and shakers that are making it happen.  Again, I was struck by the enthusiasm, optimism, entrepreneurialism, and dedication of these admirable men and women.  A particular concern of this group was the improvement of the link between postsecondary education and the business community, so that career-oriented programs can be nimbly developed in response to the emerging jobs of the 21st century economy.

Finally, in Chicago I met with nearly twenty community leaders that were convened by Juan Salgado, the head of the Instituto del Progreso Latino.  This community-based organization provides a wide range of services to the low-income Latino community in the South Side of Chicago, centered around their charter school.  They take a holistic approach, assisting not only the students, but their parents, with career services, financial advice, as well as education for the whole family.  This comprehensive approach dramatically improves persistence, retention, and graduation.  Once again, their approach is optimistic and entrepreneurial: concerned with education as the critical link to the future prosperity of those served, I spoke with the staff and the clients served at Instituto with a sense of pride about what this Administration is doing to promote that very aim. 

 Throughout all of these interactions, I sensed an energy, harmony, and resounding sense of community as I spoke with Latino leaders from all three of these cities, and it fills me with optimism about the future of the Latino community in the United States.  To rebuild our economy and put a down payment on the future of all Americans, we need a more educated workforce, which will require the efforts of every community, especially Latinos. Graduating from college is part of the path to a better job, a higher income and a more secure future for Latinos and all Americans in today’s global society and 21st century economy. It is clear, through my travels and through meeting so many dedicated Latino leaders, that in our community the American Dream is alive and well and that the Latino community is at the forefront of helping our country Win the Future.