OCTAE Connection - Issue 222 - January 15, 2015

OCTAE Newsletter

January 15, 2015


President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address

Please be sure to watch the President’s speech on Tuesday, January 20 from 9 – 11 pm EST. An article on the President’s America’s College Promise and American Technical Training Fund program proposals will be in our next edition, following the State of the Union address.Back to Top

January 2015 Is National Mentoring Month

In late December 2014, the president proclaimed January 2015 as National Mentoring Month. In doing so, he called upon “public officials, business and community leaders, educators, and Americans across the country to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.” The president stated that National Mentoring Month is a time to celebrate and “honor all those who give of themselves to guide our young people,” and “renew our commitment to realizing a future of opportunity for all." He also challenged every citizen to assume a role in creating broader opportunities for America’s children and youths through mentoring—to help empower them to become the next generation of leaders.  

The proclamation announcement reflected the work that the Obama administration is doing in partnership with businesses “to increase apprenticeship programs and connect groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math fields with role models in STEM careers.” 

The announcement highlighted several key mentoring programs already in place, including the United We Serve initiative, started by the president and first lady, that is designed to pair students with “accomplished and caring professionals” in their local areas. The first lady's Reach Higher initiative is aimed at encouraging college students on campuses across the country to connect with high school students and their own peers in order to inspire them to complete their higher education goals. And the president’s initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, begun last year, draws attention to the need for every American to recognize their national responsibility to help youths realize their full potential “regardless of who they are or where they come from.” 

Please read the full proclamation announcement to learn more about each of the mentoring initiatives highlighted in it, as well as the range of opportunities available to celebrate, participate in, and encourage--both during National Mentoring Month and throughout the year.Back to Top

The Importance of Mentors

National Mentoring Month provides the opportunity to highlight the importance of mentoring in the lives of so many of America’s youths, and to take note of the Obama administration’s initiatives that foster mentoring activities for all young adults who need them. 

The two major initiatives sponsored by the administration are 1) the mentoring focus part of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and 2) the first lady’s Near-Peer Mentoring College Challenge, a part of the broader Reach Higher Initiative (see OCTAE Connection, Issue 219, November 13, 2014 for a general discussion).  

In addition to these initiatives, state and local governments, individuals, schools, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits are among those who have long been engaged in promoting both formal and informal mentoring activities for America’s youths.  (Some of the administration’s partners in its initiatives are identified at www.Serve.gov/Mentor.) 

Mentoring has many aspects and serves many different populations, all of which can be critical to the success of our youths.  Of special interest to the administration are those mentoring activities that focus on the psychological and social development of at-risk youths as well as their academic achievements.  Recent evidence shows that the appropriate development of children before entering school is key to their success, both in school and later life.  For many, being able to support this development is a normal part of family life.  For others, however, especially those raised in disadvantaged families, mentors can be crucial in providing what the Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman calls “lifelines for poor children.”  Heckman argues that current programs for these (disadvantaged) youths do not begin early enough, and neither do they produce the skills that are most important for personal and societal success.  (For works from Heckman and others on this and related subjects, visit the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website at www.nber.org.) 

The need for mentoring extends through elementary, secondary, and college education, where it is provided formally through teachers and counsellors.  New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman summarized the importance of academic mentoring in his Sept. 9, 2014, opinion piece, “It Takes a Mentor.”  According to Friedman, this mentoring relationship, while worthwhile, is insufficient to meet the needs of students.  Thus, there is a need for more comprehensive and robust initiatives. 

Collectively, the efforts of the administration, state and local governments, individuals, and other organizations are essential if the crucial need for mentoring youths at a variety of levels is to be met.Back to Top

Educators and Nonprofits Commit to Increasing College Completion Rates at White House College Opportunity Day of Action

At the White House College Opportunity Day of Action summit on Dec. 4, 2014, over 300 representatives from colleges and universities, K–12 school districts, local governments, and nonprofit organizations made commitments to increase college awareness, enrollment numbers, and completion rates in an effort to expand higher education to more Americans.  Over 600 new commitments promoting college counseling, STEM education, and career readiness were announced at the event.  As President Obama remarked, "This did not require a single piece of legislation [or] a single new stream of funding.   What it required was a sense of urgency and a sense of focus -- and recognition this should not be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue." 

During the event, the president, first lady, and vice president spoke about the importance of providing access to affordable higher education for all students, including historically underrepresented students who may lack the resources and support to further their education and training.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell also addressed the audience, each focusing on the importance of expanding access to higher education for all students.  Secretary Duncan applauded the participating colleges and organizations for committing to build systems that enhance student success, while Undersecretary Mitchell emphasized the role of education and training in America’s continued economic prosperity. Other highlights included a panel discussion on impactful K–12 and higher education partnerships facilitated by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. 

Among those organizations making commitments were several new collaborations, such as the Minority Serving Institution Community College Completion Collaborative (MSI C4), made up of 9 community colleges from across the U.S., which committed to producing 8,000 additional college graduates and credentials by 2020, and a total of 16,500 additional college graduates and credentials by 2025.  

MSI C4 colleges are current or emerging MSIs that serve a large number of African American, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American students.  They are implementing a variety of innovative solutions to improve college access and completion, such as redesigning intake and advising services for new students, accelerating remediation and strengthening development education, improving time-to-degree, partnering with K–12 school districts to increase college readiness, and developing clear career pathways.   

The December 2014 Day of Action continued the administration's focus on expanding opportunities in higher education and built upon commitments made during the White House's first College Opportunity Summit held last January.   The event also linked with the First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative, which encourages young Americans to complete their education and training beyond a high school degree. Back to Top

To read the full list of commitments to action on college opportunity, please click here. 

Read the White House press release regarding the Day of Action here. 

Videos from the event, including remarks from the president, first lady, and vice president, can be viewed here. 

If you are interested in joining the MSI C4, please contact: Isabel.Soto@ed.gov.