Blog: Latino Ed Beat

White House Celebrates Hispanic Education During Heritage Month

Alejandra Ceja, left, speaks at a White House celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month Thursday, Oct. 15. Ceja is the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence of Hispanics. Source: Flickr/ via US Department of Education (CC BY 2.0)

In a speech honoring Hispanic Heritage Month and the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Thursday, President Obama praised Hispanic students for helping drive the U.S. high school graduation rate to an all-time high and also announced the commitments of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to boost student academic success. 

In 1990, when the the Initiative was formed by former President George H.W. Bush, “roughly half of Latino adults did not have a high school diploma and nearly one in three Hispanic students were dropping out of high school,” Obama said. 

Since then, Hispanic students have made significant academic gains, including dramatic increases in high school graduation rates, and in preschool and college enrollments. Still, they lag behind in their peers in many of these areas, the president said, transitioning to his announcement that more than $335 million has been promised to the White House Initiative to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Hispanic students.

Among the nearly 150 commitments to action were $20 million pledged by the Boys & Girls Club of America to focus on engaging Hispanic students in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and $12.4 million from Christian Brothers University in Tennessee to help undocumented students who are not eligible for financial aid pay for their tuition. 

Other major donors include the I Have a Dream Foundation, the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity and the National Partnership for Early Childhood Literacy, which committed up to $20 million to increase the number of Hispanic students who can read proficiently by the third grade.  

 Univision Communications also committed to devoting $7 million over the next five years to grow its educational parent engagement platform, Clave al Éxito