As an immigrant from Mexico, I know the importance of competent academic coaching, healthy mentorship and sustained role-model guidance. I am bilingual, bi-cultural, and I attended a public high school (Pierce High School) in Arbuckle, a small agricultural community in Northern California . In spite of growing up in a humble migrant farm-worker family, I found a way to attend and succeed at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.
After a fulfilling and diverse career in university administration, public school teaching, business consulting and practicing law, I made the decision to exclusively dedicate the rest of my life to improving the academic success of Latino youth--in recognition of and as a response to the enormously devastating impact of the Latino Education Gap. That is why I founded OjoOido.com PBC, a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation.
OjoOido.com is a Latino e-learning website that delivers a blended multimedia curriculum to develop core study habits and skills for Latino youth. Latino youth and parents, receive sustained coaching and training on how to competently negotiate the public school system.OjoOido.com’s innovative approach is targeted, relevant, and transformative.
I believe that one of the most powerful ways to reduce the Latino high school dropout rate, increase college attendance and improve college graduation rates, is by targeting a root problem: the minimal or complete absence of academic study strategies for the vast majority of Latino youth. OjoOido.com addresses this failure to provide the Latino student population access to comprehensive and culturally relevant technical academic skills coaching and training.
Latino youth are resourceful, talented and capable. Latino families value education and aspire to be productive and informed citizens. The first strategy of academic achievement is to recognise that you are responsible for your own learning. Most Latino students want to be a part of a different and better world, but often they do not know how. Study strategies are rarely taught or for that matter discussed by teachers, especially at the middle school and high school level. Teachers must be content driven and normally expect students to devise their own approach to negotiating the academic workload or depend on parents for this direction.
OjoOido.com inculcates what it means to be an independent learner and the value this has in later life as a lifelong learner to insure that Latino youth achieve. OjoOido.com’s pragmatic and systematic study habits and skills pedagogy builds competent, confident, motivated and self-reliant students. From my own experience as a student, educator and lawyer, I believe that all students must first understand the role motivation plays, how good you are at setting goals, managing your time and reflecting, in order to obtain academic success because it is those activities that will reveal to the student how she or he currently stands with regard to independent learning. It is the understanding the importance of these issues and implementing them which determines one’s attitude to work in middle school, high school, college and later.
By the teaching and implementation of study strategies, OjoOido.com trains Latino students to succeed far beyond what they currently percieve is possible and provide Latino parents the support needed to proactively prepare their children to become engaged and competitive public school students.
The current OjoOido.com Latino Role Models---Lou Gonzales, Mario Olivares, Anthony Munoz, Edwin Aguilar, Lindsey Olivares---and I know first hand what is required for Latino youth to become competent public school students. Our background mirrors that of an overwhelmingly high percentage of Latino students in the United States. We know the obstacles that our Latino youth face in successfully negotiating the public school system. Therefore, we have used our collective practical wisdom, expertise, creativity and impassioned zeal to create a blended multimedia student development pedagogy that Latino serving institutions and its administrators, teachers, parents and most importantly, its students can utilize to improve educational attainment.
Our backgrounds demonstrate that we are persistent, driven and passionately believe that all students can – and will succeed – with the opportunity to learn and grow; regardless of cultural or socio-economic obstacles that may stand in their way. Throughout our lives we have demonstrated a record of problem solving, creating, developing and executing tactical and strategic planning to successfully achieve our goals. Our life-long passionate interest in and involvement in educational programs designed to strengthen under-resourced Latino students’ ability to succeed in challenging academic environments has lead us to create OjoOido.com; a sustainable, replicable and scalable Latino e-learning solution--by Latinos, for Latinos.
Joseph Velasquez is the founder of OjoOido.com
In 2015, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (the Initiative) will celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The Initiative was established under the George H.W. Bush Administration, at a time when the high school dropout rate for Latinos was 32 percent - far outpacing the national rate of 12 percent. The education narrative on the state of education for Latinos was bleak. The staggering statistics set off alarms that brought national attention to the education deficits in our community. The narrative was described as a national crisis that could not be ignored.
There was a collective sense of urgency from civil rights organizations, education advocates and community leaders that resulted in the creation of the Initiative. Throughout its history, the Initiative has focused on various areas of education policy and engagement activities, from cradle to career, with its ultimate goal of preparing the Hispanic community for success in education and the workforce.
The Initiative’s upcoming milestone is historic for many reasons. It represents over two decades of bi-partisan leadership at all levels of government, as well as deep community and nonprofit engagement, working together to address the achievement and opportunity gaps for Hispanics. It represents years of research, intervention models and data on the educational Hispanic landscape. It is significant, not only because of the gains we have made, but for the opportunity it presents – a chance to build on the lessons learned and invest in those areas where states and school districts continue to face challenges.
But, this is bigger than us; as a community, we must celebrate the progress that has been achieved and work on with the same sense of urgency, to reframe the narrative from a deficit base to one that is focused on raising the bar on educational excellence for Hispanics.
Today, the high school dropout rate for Hispanics has been cut in half and the Hispanic high school graduation rate is at a record high. Hispanic students are also showing modest signs of progress in reading and math according to the 2013 NAEP Report Card. During the Obama Administration’s first term, the college enrollment of Hispanics reached record heights and is expanding rapidly. Since 2008, the Census Bureau estimates that Hispanic enrollment is up by more than 1.1 million students--and college enrollment is up more for Hispanics than any other group. In 2000, 22 percent of Hispanic students attended college and now more than 35 percent are enrolled in college.
Yes, indeed, there is much to celebrate, but there is still a long way to go. Education remains the key to economic growth and prosperity for our community and our country. It is the surest path out of poverty. We need more of our children enrolling in high-quality early learning programs, attending more rigorous and competitive high schools, equipped with technology and internet-access, more of our students taking AP, financial literacy, IB and STEM courses, and even more students graduating from post-secondary institutions with high-quality degrees, prepared to lead in the 21st century workforce. The future of our nation is inextricably linked to the future of the Hispanic community – we are the largest and fastest-growing minority group, and will represent 60 percent of our nation’s population growth between 2005 and 2050. We hold the key to the President’s 2020 goal, of having the best-educated most competitive workforce in the world.
Over the coming months, the Initiative is poised to bring national attention to policy issues, programs and community leaders in action – those making positive gains in accelerating Hispanic achievement. We will build on the past, using the foundation to set a new ambitious agenda aimed at strengthening the educational pipeline for Hispanics from cradle to career.
The work ahead of us can only be met through a shared partnership involving all levels of government and institutions, as well as the business, education, labor, and philanthropic communities. Together, we must do more to prepare, inspire and support the next generation of leaders.
For us, it is not an option---we must provide every child with the world-class education they need and deserve. If we are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, we must continue to accelerate the rate of progress do more to narrow the achievement and opportunity gaps for the Hispanic community--Our future depends on it.
Alejandra Ceja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.