This past Tuesday, September 27th, 2011, President Obama spoke at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver, Colorado. The President reminded the largely Latino community that all Americans deserve a world class education that gives them professional employment opportunities and helps build our nation's workforce, while remaining competitive in a global market.
Councilman Paul Lopez from Denver's 3rd District reflects on the President's speech and how The American Jobs Act will put our nation and communities back to work:
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke at Abraham Lincoln High School, a school whose students are from some of the lowest income neighborhoods in Denver. A 75% Latino neighborhood whose residents face the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in Colorado with one of the lowest High school graduation rates. Yet despite these challenges, the students who attend Lincoln High along with their families are overcoming great odds set against them, and have not lost hope or ignored their dreams to succeed. With strong support of the principal, many dedicated teachers and involved parents over the past five years, Lincoln High has seen great academic improvement in graduation rates, college acceptance, and exam scores (not to mention two state basketball championships).
Although we are proud of their spirit and determination, the reality is that the thousands of families in Southwest Denver and millions across this country still face great obstacles like poverty, unemployment, and opportunities for higher education. These challenges still threaten their future and ours as a nation. We cannot expect them to do it alone. President Obama declared in front of thousands that our message is clear; we need congress to pass the American Jobs Act. We must make sure that we are putting people back to work, placing teachers in the classroom, giving tax breaks to small neighborhood businesses and by making sure that the wealthy are paying their fair share.
In his remarks today, the President reminded our county that we must remain committed to the idea that no matter what the zip code or ethnicity a child is from they all deserve a world class education that gives them the opportunity to achieve higher education, professional employment and will at the same time help us build our nation's workforce and remain competitive in a global market.
For our nation to thrive we must seek employment and education policies that do not pit states against each other for resources. For all students to be ready to compete in a global market, we must ensure that all students have the knowledge to compete in a new market. Unfortunatelythe "No Child left behind" program has good intentions but low income students have been hurt by the idea of measuring success heavily by standardized test. Giving states the flexibility to set their own standards and benchmarks will help schools like Lincoln who have a mostly Latino student base. Not only do we need to give school districts flexibility to improve their diverse problems, but also increasing the number of teachers in the classroom and modernize schools.
Regardless of who the parents of these children are, they must also have the work opportunities to support their children. Many of the brightest kids in our schools have parents that can't work, have had a hard time finding work, or whose companies have failed due to the recent recession. Construction, service industry, manufacturing; these are the jobs that have been lost in these neighborhoods and in our country. The American Jobs Act will help these families get back on their feet, helping ease the burden of many of these kids that leave school or prioritize work to help their families.
During the event the majority of military personal or R.O.T.C. were young men and women of Latino origin. Many of the soldiers that are protecting us are not only Latino, but they are also having a hard time finding work when they get back. There should be no reason that our soldiers should also have to deal with the stress of unemployment, this job act will help ease the transition that this heroes have to go through when coming home.
As the largest growing ethnic group in the U.S. it is not only important to challenge ourselves when it comes to education and work, but to also take an active role in having Congress pass the American Jobs Act and put our nation and community back to work.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez is the Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the Office of Public Engagement.