Nuestra Iniciativa - December Issue

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Nuestra Iniciativa HeaderDecember 2013 Issue

Happy Holidays! With 2014 around the corner, the WHIEEH team would like to THANK YOU for your support of our mission and goals.  Together we are helping elevate a national agenda focused on increasing the educational outcomes and opportunities for the Latino community and our country.  We have many exciting activities planned for the new year and look forward to your continued support.  Enjoy our December issue and best wishes for a wonderful and safe holiday season. - Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director

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Supporting America’s English Learners: A Promise We Must Keep

Learn what ED's Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) is doing to support English Learners throughout the nation under the new leadership of Libia Gil, the newly appointed assistant deputy secretary and director. 

OELA continues to oversee a number of federal funding programs that aim to improve instruction for English learners and assist educators who work with this student population. Learn more here.


New Financial Aid Toolkit

The U.S. Department of Education launched an online "one-stop shop" aimed at guidance counselors and other advisers, such as staff or volunteers at community-based organizations, who assist students through the process of selecting and financing their higher education. The Financial Aid Toolkit, available at, consolidates financial aid resources and content into a searchable online database, making it easy for individuals to quickly access the information they need to support their students.


Student Loan Information

What to do before you make your first Student Loan Payment

Making First Student Loan Payment

One perk of having a federal student loan instead of a private student loan is that you are not required to start making payments right away. Learn more about what you should do before making your first payment. 

And What not to do

Girl with Calculator

Here are some things you should know before started repay your student loans. 


The President & First Lady Visit Those Fasting for Immigration Reform

President Obama and immigration reformers

Last month, the President and the First Lady visited the brave individuals who are fasting in the shadow of the Capitol, sacrificing their health in an effort to get Congress to act swiftly on commonsense immigration reform. The President and the First Lady gave their support for their fight for family unity during the Thanksgiving weekend, as families across the country come together to spend time with loved ones. Read more.

The Secretary and the WHIEEH leadership plan to visit on December 11.


Scholarships Available for DACA Students

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund has made available its General Scholarship for students who have obtained DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status. The scholarship deadline is December 15.


Leader Spotlight

Diego Sanchez

This month we feature Diego Sanchez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and advocate. 

Learn more about Diego and his background while reading, "Hope, Perseverance, family & Access to Education".  

What aspect of education are you most passionate about and why? The aspect of education that I am most passionate about would have to be teamwork. Constantly engaging in group work has allowed me to grow significantly in many areas. Just as I have been challenged many times by this learning method, I have also had the opportunity to learn to lead, whether it was in the classroom or in extracurricular activities. It has taught me a great deal about patience as well as knowing when to step up or when to simply relax and listen.

What were the education challenges you encountered after emigrating from Argentina to the United States? I migrated to the US when I had just turned 9, and the biggest education challenge that I encountered was definitely learning English. It was not only a barrier that I faced when communicating with teachers and classmates, but it had also become a tool for young bullies. I still remember getting in trouble and being embarrassed in front of people for believing the things that my “translators” would tell me to say or respond. 

What advice would you give to other immigrants who are seeking an opportunity-rich life in the U.S.? When I first found out about my immigration status in high school, my whole world collapsed. I was not able to obtain a driver’s license, legally work, or attend college, and at the same time had to worry about the possibility of being deported and separated from my family. Little by little, I started seeing many doors closing. However, it only took one door to open up for me to find out about St. Thomas University, now my alma mater. To pay for school, I had to sing in the choir, even though I was never a singer, had to run for the cross-country team, even though I was never a runner, and for many weekends had to help my mom cook and sell food to the community. So the best advice that I have for other immigrants is to never give up, and to take advantage of all resources available, from community organizations to family members.   


Early Learning News

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) has published a new resource Directory of State Early Learning Contacts for all the states and territories as a service to the field.  


Strong Start for America's Children Act of 2013

Last month, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced a bipartisan early learning bill. It focused on four critical goals: boosting funding for high-quality preschool programs serving four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families; increasing the quality of infant and toddler care offered by providers; supporting borad-scale quality improvements to child care programs; and encouraging continued support for the maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. For more information about the President's Early Learning proposal, click here


Explore the Teaching Profession


 TEACH and the Ad Council have partnered to launch “Make More,” a new public awareness campaign to recruit the next great generation of teachers.  Students who encounter the TV, radio, outdoor, and digital PSAs are encouraged to visit to explore the teaching profession.  The web site walks students through interactive pathways to become a teacher and connects them with information about certification for various teaching jobs.


Our First Lady and the Power of Education

On November 12, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan spoke to sophomores at Bell Multicultural School in Washington, D.C. about the importance of committing to education.  The First Lady referenced her personal academic experiences to highlight the pivotal role attitudes have in one’s future. Along with The First Lady and Secretary Duncan, Black Entertainment Television representatives spoke with the students about their aspirations, goals and concerns on higher education. In addition, The First Lady and Secretary Duncan shared resources such as, College Scorecard, and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, to help students navigate the college application process.



In a report released last month by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) revealed that the U.S. average performance on literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment was significantly lower than the international average. The Department conducted a report, “Time for the U.S. to Reskill?” which took a closer look on a segment of the adult population, between the ages of 16-65, that have historically been overlooked and underserved. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) has launched a national engagement process to develop foundational skills for our nation’s adults.


MLK Day of Service – Hold a FAFSA Training

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The MLK Day holiday (January 20, 2014) is also a national day of service.  The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) leads the effort to encourage people to volunteer in their communities on that day, and has tools and resources – including grants – for individuals and organizations to develop service projects and activities.  One suggested activity that could be beneficial for Latino communities is holding a FAFSA training for students and families. Information on organizing a FAFSA training – on MLK Day or any other day – can be found here. And check out CNCS’s other MLK Day resources at for more service and volunteer project ideas.



  • President Obama announced $100 million for Youth CareerConnect, a grant program that will help transform America’s high schools.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts’ The Big ReadGovernments, libraries, and non-profit organizations are encouraged to apply for one of approximately 75 grants that will be awarded for programming occurring between September 2014 and June 2015.  The application deadline is January 28, 2014.  
  • ED has announced finalists for the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) and the Investing in Innovation (i3) competitions.  The 31 RTT-D finalists, representing 80 districts across 21 states, were selected from more than 200 applications.  i3’s 25 highest-rated applications, representing 13 states and the District of Columbia, were selected from 618 applications.  Under both competitions, awards will be made no later than December 31.

This Month in History

On December 21, 2012, the Obama Administration launched the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) initiative for eligible borrowers, which helps make monthly student loan payments affordable.  


Monthly Webinars Resources

Check out the November webinar on immigrant integration featuring information on Networks for Integrating New American (NINA) and Welcoming America. The December 18 webinar will focus on family engagement. Stay tuned for the invite.


School Improvement Grant Data

ED released 2011-12 school- and district-level state assessment data of School Improvement Grant (SIG) schools.  The data reflects continued progress across various SIG models, school levels, and locations.  Despite difficult learning environments, SIG schools have increased proficiency rates in reading and math -- demonstrating the importance of targeted investments over time. 


Early Learning on College Campuses

To support the participation of more low-income parents in higher education, the U.S. Department of Education awarded nearly $9.2 million to 58 postsecondary institutions to establish or support campus-based child care services. 

Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services.


Hispanics in Higher Education

A report from the College Board and National Journal showed that the majority of Hispanics view attending an institution of higher education as an investment in their future. Click here for more information. 



Pregnant and Parenting Guidance

This month, the Office of Civil Rights plans to release the Spanish translation of Pregnant and Parenting Students guidance that was released in English in June. The pamphlet provides background on school retention problems associated with young parents and the requirements related to these issues contained in the Department’s regulation implementing Title IX.


Mapping the Nation


Mapping the Nation, introduced a new, interactive map that pulls together demographic, economic, and education indicators -- nearly one million data points -- to show the U.S. is a truly global nation. 


Recent Initiative Appearances

Marco Davis and Fox Deportes Town Hall

Deputy Director Marco Davis participates in Fox Deportes Town Hall on Higher Education in San Antonio on November 16th.

Maribel Duran and Nancy Navarro and the NAEYC Latino Interest Forum

Maribel Duran, Chief of Staff, and Commissioner Nancy Navarro joins state and national leaders at the NAEYC Conference to discuss the importance of quality early learning for the growing Hispanic population on November 20 .

Patricia Gandara and Panel

Commissioner Patricia Gandara participates at the Making Education Work for Latinas event in Los Angeles on December 2. She was a panelist alongside University of California Chancellor Janet Napolitano and actress Eva Longoria.


On December 3, Executive Director Alejandra Ceja was honored as Education Advocate of the Year by Baruch College at its annual community reception in New York City.

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