Nuestra Iniciativa - March Issue

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Nuestra Iniciativa HeaderMarch 2014 Issue
Alejandra Ceja

Welcome to the March edition of Nuestra Iniciativa!  In addition to Spring being a few days away, so are other important dates to keep in my mind, most importantly ensuring that our community gets covered under the Affordable Care Act by March 31st!  It is significant to note that Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States. Please help us spread the word on the importance of getting covered! 

The Initiative continues to amplify the resources available at the federal level, that support Latinos from cradle to career. You’ll read about current efforts and key deadlines, including information on the recent launch of the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.  Our office will play a central role in elevating the voice of our Latino males nationally and we look forward to working with you to increase opportunities for our boys and men of color to thrive! I know that there is great work happening across our country and it is equally important that we highlight and elevate it, so please share your Bright Spots! Enjoy!

Alejandra Ceja

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"My Brother's Keeper" Initiative launched

President Obama announcing My Brother's Keeper

On February 27, President Obama launched a new effort aimed at empowering boys and young men of color, a segment of our society which too often faces disproportionate challenges and obstacles to success. These obstacles are found in our schools, communities, criminal justice system, families, and even in the minds of our young people themselves. The President is committed to building a broad coalition of backers to help break down barriers, clear pathways to opportunity, and reverse troubling trends which show too many of our boys and young men of color slipping through the cracks in our society. 

To launch the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, the President was joined by local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media.  The challenges facing boys and young men of color are broad and multidimensional, and so must be the team we bring to the table to begin fostering solutions.  

Watch the full video announcement here.

Latino Roundtable

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics has been working to support this initiative, with a particular focus on improving academic and other outcomes for young Latino males, and we will continue to engage the Hispanic community to advance the President’s goals.


Getting Hispanics covered under the Affordable Care Act

With the March 31st deadline approaching, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Initiative are working to continue the Administration’s efforts increase outreach efforts to educate Latinos across the country about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and share information about health insurance is if they enroll in the health insurance Marketplaces in their area.

Here are additional resources, to help you and your networks get informed and enrolled:

Each week until March 31, HHS is hosting Latino Enrollment Summits throughout the country in partnership with national organizations like Enroll America, LULAC, National Alliance for Hispanic Health and Planned Parenthood, but also many community partners like health centers, community centers, and libraries in your neighborhoods, are hosting Latino Enrollment Summits throughout the country. Through these Enrollment Summits, community members can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and get personalized enrollment assistance from trained Navigators and assistors.

Below are the following dates and locations for the upcoming Latino Enrollment Summits:

3/15/14               El Paso, TX 

3/15/14               North Jersey

3/15/14               Houston, TX 

3/15/14               Orlando-Daytona area (Sanford, FL)

3/15/14               Orlando, FL  

3/15/14               New Orleans, LA

3/15/14               Harlingen, TX 

3/15/14               Cleveland, OH

3/15/14               Miami, FL (Florida City, FL)

3/15-16/14          Tampa, FL

3/20-21/14           McAllen, TX

3/22/14               Dallas, TX

3/22/14               Miami, FL

3/22/14               Orlando, FL

3/22/14               Brownsville, TX

3/22/14               Tampa, FL

3/29/14               Orlando, FL

3/29/14               Tampa, FL 

If your organization would like to host a Latino Enrollment Summit, please contact

At ED, the various White House Initiatives are engaging youth about the health care changes that are happening through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Healthy Engaged Youth! (HEY!). It’s important for youth to be informed about these opportunities so they can get enrolled and covered. We also want to empower youth to spread the word to their peers and the Hispanic community to ensure our community has access to affordable health care. For tips on outreach and information, get a copy of the HEY! guide, at

In addition, the Initiative held an ACA Twitterchat on March 11th.

Here at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), we know that if our students are healthy, their chances of doing better in school increase. And students whose parents are covered with health insurance are more likely to see a doctor before they get sick. Now it the time to get enrolled!!


"Discipline Gap" Initiative

The “discipline gap” helps fuel the “achievement gap” we see in our schools today. This is the result of misguided “zero tolerance” policies. New research shows that even a single suspension to the juvenile court system increases the odds of dropping out of school.

The Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative released the results of more than two years of research into school discipline practices that remove students from the classroom.  The group, comprised of 26 nationally recognized experts from the social science, education and legal fields, detailed its findings through three primary briefing papers and several supplementary papers.  The release of the Disciplinary Disparities Briefing Paper Series follows the January 8th issuance of federal guidance on school discipline policies. This series presents the most recent findings on disciplinary disparities, with a special focus on what can be, and is being, done to reduce disparities.

The release of the Collaborative’s work is one of five initiatives coming to fruition this year that should drive home to educators, parents, policymakers and students that reliance on exclusionary discipline policies is a mistake.

Action is imperative for us, especially because Hispanic/Latino students are being suspended at hugely disproportionate rates compared to their peers.  Recent research suggests the same is true with African American students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners and LGBTQ students.


5 Things to Do after Filing Your FAFSA

FAFSA picture

Congratulations! You have completed your 2014-2015 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Do you know what to do afterwards?

1) Look out for the Student Aid Report

After you submit your FAFSA, you’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR). Your SAR is a paper or electronic document that gives you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid as well as listing your answers to the questions on your FAFSA.

2) Locate Your EFC

After locating your SAR, you may want to start by looking for your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. Its formula considers your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) as well as your family size and the number of family members who will attend college.

3) Make Corrections to It

Did you fill out FAFSA before your 2013 tax information was complete? Do you need to update any information? Did you find a mistake? Don’t worry! It’s easy to make corrections online at Log in and click “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You’ll need to enter your Federal Student Aid PIN to make any corrections. Corrections should be processed in 3-5 days and you should receive a revised SAR.

4) Review Your Financial Aid Information

The last page of your SAR includes information about your financial aid history, specifically the loans you have taken out. It can be complicated and confusing to keep track of all of your loans and interest rates, but it is very important. Reviewing the financial aid history in your SAR will help you be aware of how much you are borrowing and how much you’ll owe later.

5) Double-Check with your Schools

Lastly, make sure that you double-check with the financial aid offices at the schools you applied to.  Sometimes schools need additional paperwork or have other deadlines. You never want to leave money on the table!


DACA Renewal

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently posted a notice on its website with important information for individuals granted deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) prior to August 15, 2012.  If you were granted DACA by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prior to August 15, 2012 or are a DACA recipient with an employment authorization document (EAD) that will expire in the next 120 days, you must apply for DACA renewal to avoid any lapse in your employment authorization or accrual of unlawful presence in the United States.

If you have moved since your EAD was granted, please visit to update your address on file with USCIS.

Upcoming Opportunities for Hispanic Serving Institutions

The Department will hold a new Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) grant competition in fiscal year (FY) 2014. Institutions planning to submit an application under the PPOHA competition, when it is announced, will be required to submit an application for eligibility when that process is reopened.

Institutions that have already established their eligibility under the recently closed eligibility process for FY 2014, will not have to submit new applications for eligibility.

Please pay attention to information on the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Division’s website for additional information concerning this competition. The official announcement for eligibility and the PPOHA competition will be published in the Federal Register.


With support from a grant from the National Center for Education Research (NCER) in the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, Michigan State University and Northwestern University will be conducting the 2014 Research Design Workshop for Faculty from Minority-Serving Institutions. The purpose of the workshop is to provide an overview of quantitative education research design and introduce faculty from minority-serving institutions to IES research funding opportunities and application requirements. The goal of the workshop is to increase the capacity of researchers from minority-serving institutions to develop and conduct rigorous evaluations of the impact of education interventions.

When: July 21 – 23, 2014
Where: Hilton Orrington Hotel; Evanston, IL
Costs: Northwestern University will pay for participants' travel to and from the Research Design Workshop site, lodging, and for course materials. Participants will be provided a per diem to cover the cost of meals on days of instruction. Participants are responsible for the cost of meals in transit (to and from the Workshop).

All applications must be received no later than April 1, 2014. For more information about the workshop, including the application procedures, please visit:


Race To The Top - Early Learning Initiative

On February 4, on a conference call with more than 1,200 stakeholders (see audio file and transcript), Secretary Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced a major new competition to build, develop, and expand high-quality preschool programs by working closely with states and local communities across the country. This new $250 million Race to the Top competition is distinct from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, a program that currently supports 20 states as they design and implement integrated systems of high-quality early learning programs and services to increase the number of children from low-income families that enters kindergarten ready for success—from birth through age 5.

This year's Race to the Top funding will support the President's call to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, through a new competition to expand and enhance preschool programs. $500 million will be awarded competitively through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships to support states and communities in expanding high-quality early learning to over 100,000 infants and toddlers.


Why I wear 80

For the fourth straight year, Secretary Arne Duncan played in the NBA All Star Celebrity game on February 14. After a performance that included 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, Duncan, who played collegiate basketball at Harvard and then professionally in Australia for four years, was named game MVP. Check out the highlight reel.

More importantly, during the game, Duncan proudly donned the number 80 on his jersey. This represented the newly announced high school graduation rate – the highest it has been in American history. “The 80 percent number represents not only the collective progress we’ve made as a nation, but individually as communities, schools, students, and families,” said Duncan. “We have further to go, but this is a moment to celebrate the hard work of our educators.” Hispanics are at an all-time high 72% since 1976.

Jersey locker

Top Ten List: Early Learning

On February 23, Secretary Duncan participated in the Education and Workforce Committee session, “Supporting Governors’ Innovation in Early Childhood Education,” at the National Governors Association’s (NGA) Winter Meeting.  In his remarks, the Secretary referenced a handout in governors’ binders, highlighting those states that are making rapid progress in early learning, K-12 education, and higher education.  He also presented a Top Ten list of why he thinks it is “inevitable” that states and the nation are going to see a dramatic expansion of high-quality early learning over the next few years.  “Now, I absolutely applaud the tremendous, bipartisan leadership the governors have shown on early learning,” he stated.  “And, I want to encourage each of you to take the next step.  Please continue to invest and speak frankly about the need to expand high-quality early learning.  There are real, practical challenges that states face in expanding access and improving quality."


White House hosts First Student Film Festival

President Obama and student's film festival

On February 28,  in collaboration with the National Geographic, the American Film Institute, and Fox, the first annual “White House Student Film Festival” was held in the White House.  President Barack Obama mentioned that, “We also need people who are studying the arts because our film industry is a huge generator of jobs here in the United States; it tells us our story and helps us to find what’s -- our common humanity.” He also announced his ConnectED initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of America’s students to next-generation, high-speed Internet over the next five years; as well as the $400 million in new commitments from Adobe and Prezi to make free software available to teachers and students; coupled with the $750 million in commitments from private-sector leaders who have pledged to invest more than $1 billion.


Call for Peace First Prize Nominees

The Peace First Prize recognizes peacemakers ages 8-22 for their compassion, courage, and ability to create collaborative change.

Through a $25,000 and two-year fellowhip, Peace First will invest in each winner's leadership and share their stories with the nation. The deadline is March 17.


Upcoming WHIEEH Events:

National Policy Forum on Integrated Student Supports: Los Angeles, CA, March 27

Public Meeting of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics: Miami Dade College, Miami, FL, April 1

National Policy Forum on College Access: Durham, NC, May 8

Postsecondary Completion Symposium: New York, NY, June 3-4

Stay Connected to the WHIEEHFacebookTwitter

Bright Spots

We want to hear about what's working for Hispanic students in your schools and communities. Know a Bright Spot? Bright Spots are programs, leaders, schools, organizations, partnerships or models that address key education topics, for Hispanics and are helping close the achievement gap – from cradle to career.

Please share your Bright Spot and send them to


Monthly WHIEEH Webinars

In the first of a special series on high school equivalency exams now available. February's webinar focused on the redesigned GED Test. The American Council on Education provided an overview and shared resources. President Andrew Sund of St. Augustine College discussed his college's GED preparation program and shared results from the program's exit tests. 

Our next webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19th at 2pm EST and will focus on English Language Learners.  


Resources for Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month.  Need help planning education activities?  The Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) web site offers more than 1,500 free teaching and learning resources from dozens of federal agencies, including 39 resources specifically highlighted for this month.


Resources for Youth: get hired in high-demand jobs!

Do you know what you need to do to get hired in high demand occupations?

The Department of Labor recently launched the "Credentials for Youth" tool, which provides a step-by-step guide to help youth obtain credentials for those high demand jobs and share resources find those positions in their local area.


Resources for Aspiring Journalists

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, will travel to China from March 19-26, 2014. During the trip to China, she will be focusing on the power of education. She will share with students in the U.S. the stories of the students she meets in China, as well as interesting facts about China’s culture –emphasizing the importance of students learning from one another globally. PBS LearningMedia and Discovery Education will offer engagement opportunities surrounding the trip so that students across the U.S. can follow her trip by signing up for updates throughout the visit. View the First Lady’s message to students here.


"The Arts in the Schools" Month

March is known as “The Arts in the Schools Month.” Research increasingly shows that arts education heightens engagement for all students and can increase motivation and persistence for those most at risk of failing or dropping out of school. This month showcases the achievements of students and others that focus on the professional growth of arts educators committed to achieving the goal of arts-rich schools for all students. 


Boys in Peril

Boys in Peril is a documentary film that follows three Latino high school seniors as they tackle the challenges that come along with finishing high school and transitioning to college. By providing a snapshot into the realities that young Hispanic men face, the film attempts to gain insight into the decline in college enrollment in the U.S., especially among minority students. Deputy Director Marco Davis is featured in the documentary. 


English Language Learners as Assets

In a recent op-ed Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Deputy Secretary for English Language Acquisition Libia Gil identify the estimated 4.6 million students learning English -- the fastest-growing student population in American schools -- as a “valuable yet untapped resource.”  

 The Department is encouraging innovations in English learner education, in part by making it a priority under the Investing in Innovation (i3) program.  “We challenge our schools and communities to invest in our future leaders with bi-literacy and multi-literacy skills.”


Hispanics and the AP Exam

The College Board released its annual report of trends in Advanced Placement (AP) test taking February 11th, which profiles states’ efforts to provide students the opportunity to gain and demonstrate college-level skills and knowledge in high school via AP exams.

 In 2013, the graduating class consisted of 18.8 percent Latino students. Among the AP exam taker population, 18.8 percent of test takers were also Latinos.

 Of the students scoring a 3 or above on an AP exam, Latinos made up 16.9 percent. Research done by College Board shows that students who scored at or above a 3 on AP exams typically earn higher GPAs in college, are more likely to graduate college in five years compared to their peers and have higher graduation rates; these findings emphasize the need for focus on these student populations and their gaps in achievement when compared with their peers.


President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

The President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, launched in 2006, annually highlights the role colleges and universities play in solving community problems and placing more students on a lifelong path of civic engagement by recognizing institutions that achieve meaningful, measureable outcomes in the communities they serve.

Deadline for the 2014 Honor Roll is April 3, 2014.


Hispanic Reporters Roundtable with Secretary Duncan

On February 24, we joined Secretary Arne Duncan at a roundtable with Hispanic reporters. He discussed President Barack Obama’s initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper” as he discussed the state of Latino males in education. In addition, he shared the importance of early learning, teacher recruitment and the Initiative's forthcoming college guide. Below are a few newspapers in which featured the interview:

NBC Latino

La Opinion


Support Programs offered to Military Service Members and Veterans

A new NCES First Look report provides national data on services and support programs offered to military service members and veterans enrolled for credit at postsecondary institutions, as well as those dependents with military or veteran's financial education benefits.


Scholarship Opportunity

The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) is offering merit-based scholarships to federal employees, their spouses, and their children. View all the criteria on their Scholarships page, and download the applicationPartner Program scholarship applications are also available.  Complete applications must be postmarked no later than the March 28th deadline.


Hispanics and STEM

Check out the latest Initiative's fact sheet regarding ED's commitment to increasing the number of Hispanics in STEM fields.


Ask Arne

Teacher Ambassador Fellow Emily Davis recently sat down with the Secretary to discuss his thoughts on the President’s State of the Union address and the importance of school culture and fair discipline.


Recent Events

On February 8, Executive Director Alejandra Ceja and White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans Executive Director David Johns, gave the keynote address at Teach for America’s School Leaders of Color Conference in New Orleans, LA. They discussed the importance of recruiting more minorities in teaching profession and encouraged the audience in their work in the classroom.

Leadership Summit in Montgomery County, MD.

On February 10, Executive Director Alejandra Ceja was a panelist at the session, "Education and Impact on Our Future" during the inaugural Latino Leadership Summit at the Montgomery Community Media studios in Rockville, Md. This televised summit brought local leaders together to discuss how to better engage the growing Latino population in Montgomery County.

Ceja Receiving Award

On February 20, Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors honored Executive Director, Alejandra Ceja and her family for her work in the Latino community and their support in her achievements. Later that week, Univision Los Angeles highlighted her in a segment called, "De Huntington Park a la Casa Blanca."

Luis Fraga

On February 22,  Commissioner Luis Fraga conducted the keynote address at the 2014 Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education annual conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. He spoke about the Commission's efforts to help the Hispanic community reach the President's 2020 goal and discussed policy that could help to further educational outcomes for Latinos. He highlighted that it is not only the students who desire to achieve success in higher education – it is their parents too. More Latino parents desire and expect their children to obtain a college degree. 

Duran STEM Summit

On February 26, Chief of Staff, Maribel Duran, participated in STEM Inclusion Summit at the White House, which included a roundtable discussion involving educational initiatives, nonprofits and other key stakeholders and how they can collaborate to help create opportunities for minorities to excel in STEM fields.


On March 5, Secretary Duncan, Acting Assistant Secretary of Planning, Evaluation, Policy Development Gabriela Gomez, members from Federal Student Aid and the Office of Postsecondary Education joined us in a discussion with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Executive Team to collaborate on how to better inform Hispanic students of financial aid and college access.


Internship Opportunity

If you are a student interested in education policy and how it impacts the Hispanic community, apply for our Summer 2014 internship program. Click here for more information. Due to high demand, be sure to submit your application by March 15, 2014.

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