U.S. Under Secretary of Education speaks at UCR to launch Living the Promise campaign

Courtesy of Jimmy Lai/HIGHLANDER
Courtesy of Jimmy Lai/HIGHLANDER

At 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14, United States Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, spoke at the launch of UCR’s Living the Promise campaign held in HUB 302. The symposia was the first of a series of Living the Promise events, with future events centering around the themes comprising of the campaign. The event began with an introduction by Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox, following with remarks made by Mitchell and a discussion between the two speakers.

Living the Promise is a UC Riverside campaign that raises money for the university’s research and educational opportunities including the extensive diversity, accessibility and valuable faculty. The campaign seeks to raise money for new buildings, more financial aid for disadvantaged students, research and programs that “will advance the progress of UCR student and faculty.”

The under secretary discussed the importance of college accessibility, diversity and the education of students that will make up tomorrow’s workforce. Mitchell praised Wilcox as a “national treasure” and said that he wished that the Department of Education could “clone what is happening at UC Riverside and bring it to every college and university in the country.”

Mitchell also described the experiences of two UCR students, Louisa Olvera and Daniel Franklin. Louisa, a senior at UCR, came to the United States from Mexico at age eight with her nine-year-old brother, unaccompanied by their parents. Louisa picked crops since age four and had never been to school before coming to the U.S. She received a scholarship from UCR and is majoring in Chicano studies with a minor in education and hopes to become a teacher.

Daniel, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq, is a transfer student from Riverside Community College (RCC). He is at UCR working on his M.S. in mechanical engineering. Franklin was working 18 to 20 hours a day, commuting to Ontario from Apple Valley, while studying at RCC, leaving him only “four hours to sleep.” He now hopes to work in aviation, project management or transportation.

Courtesy of Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER
Courtesy of Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER

Despite the educational successes occurring, Mitchell said that as a state, there is still room for improvement. Even though we have made progress, “in 2015, nearly a quarter of all first-year students entering in to the California State University system were in need of math remediation, for African American students, the rate was 48 percent and for Latinos, it was 38 percent.” Mitchell likened this to starting college and being told “immediately that you’re not on the starting line but 75 yards back,” and characterized that disadvantage as a “long distance to travel.” Mitchell stressed that there needs to be more college and career readiness to help cut down that “75 yard deficit.”

Mitchell ended his speech imploring the community to continue to invest in education, saying that though it is difficult, UC Riverside has done an excellent job of creating an institution through intensive community work. He said that through work and diversity, UCR has “proven that the future is always invented in California, and from where we sit, that future looks pretty bright.”

The next Living the Promise symposium is set to take place on Thursday, Nov. 10 from 6-8 p.m. in HUB 302, and feature the topic of social innovation.

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