On Monday, September 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM, the White House will honor local “Champions of Change” who are doing extraordinary work to educate the next generation of Americans. These Champions have distinguished themselves by devoting their time and energy to creating opportunities for young people to succeed, particularly in low-income communities. As a part of Hispanic Heritage Month, this event will showcase these leaders and the exceptional contributions they have made to Latino communities and this country. The program will feature remarks from Jim Shelton, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education, Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education, and Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live- streamed on the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov/live. To learn more about the White House Champions of Change program, visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.
One of our own was chosen for her work with Running Start for Careers!
Shana Runck, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Shana Runck is the Assistant Vice President of Community Relations and Financial Capabilities with the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union. In this role, she has worked to promote financial education and job training among students in New Mexico. As a New Mexico native and seasoned educator, she is passionate about providing at-risk Latino youth with the financial tools and life skills necessary for a successful transition into college, employment, and financial independence. Shana has played a vital role in the development of the City of Albuquerque’s “Running Start for Careers” program and also helped design the program’s first Financial Services Career Exploration course.
See below for a list of the others winners:
Amelia Castañeda, Alexandria, Virginia
Amelia Castañeda is the Alexandria Center Director for Higher Achievement, an organization dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for middle school youth. In this role, Amelia works closely with middle school students and their families, helping them navigate the educational system and providing much-needed support. In the Higher Achievement program, students participate in a rigorous year-round afterschool and summer academy program, which creates for them opportunities to succeed and raises their own expectations of themselves. It is Amelia’s mission that these students graduate the program college-bound and equipped with the necessary tools for success.
Susana Cordova, Denver, Colorado
Susana Cordova is Chief Schools Officer of Denver Public Schools (DPS). She is a life-long Denver resident and has worked at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She has also held several leadership positions in the DPS central office. Susana believes in the power of our schools to transform our communities. She has worked with principals, content specialists, and classroom teachers to support rigorous instruction and strives for inclusionary practices to meet the needs of all learners. Among other things, Susana brought the English Language Acquisition program to DPS for students learning English as a second language.
Patricia Cortez, Salinas, California
Patricia Cortez is a teacher at Alianza Elementary School, a charter school with a two-way bilingual immersion program in Watsonville, California. She has been at the school for 18 years. As a product of a bilingual education from the very same community, Patricia’s goal is to inspire the next generation to develop and take pride in their bilingualism.
Dr. Daniel King, Mission, Texas
Dr. Daniel King is the Superintendent of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, which serves more than 32,000 students in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Dr. King has implemented a comprehensive approach to drop-out prevention and recovery, as well as a systemic scale-up of dual enrollment and Early College High Schools. The results have been staggering: Over the past few years, the district’s four-year graduation rate increased from 62.4% to 90.1%. Dr. King looks forward to continuing to increase educational attainment for students in his district, the vast majority of whom are Latino.
Dr. Gonzalo La Cava, Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Gonzalo La Cava is the Area Superintendent for Fulton County Schools’ Central Learning Community, a grouping of schools surrounding the city of Atlanta. More than 18,000 students attend 23 schools in this learning community. Dr. La Cava works with each school’s leadership to achieve unprecedented academic results for all students and to guide its leaders in day-to-day operations and management. Prior to this role, Dr. La Cava served Fulton County Schools as its Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services and its Executive Director of Services for Exceptional Children.
Leonel Popol, Cheverly, Maryland
Leonel Popol is a Bilingual Counselor at the Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus in Washington, DC. Nearly 29 years ago, Leonel came to the United States with $300 in his pocket, limited knowledge of English, and a determination to succeed. His career began by cleaning toilets and working in the construction industry. Today, he is a Bilingual Counselor at Cardozo and is also the coach of Georgetown University’s women’s soccer team.
Pedro A. Rivera, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Pedro A. Rivera is Superintendent of the Lancaster School District in Pennsylvania. His district serves a diverse student body of 11,500 students, 84% of whom are economically disadvantaged and about 10% of whom experience homelessness over the course of the school year. Pedro is a first-generation college graduate and the first Latino superintendent in the district. As Superintendent, he emphasizes the importance of providing a high-quality education for all students and highlights his personal journey as an example for others to follow. Under his leadership, the school district has developed and implemented a new curriculum, an aggressive professional development plan, and innovative teacher observation tools.
Pat Sánchez, Denver, Colorado
Pat Sánchez is Superintendent of Adams County School District 14 in Colorado. Pat holds more than 23 years of administrative experience and has chosen to serve disadvantaged communities by working in urban, predominantly Latino schools. In Adams 14, roughly 80% of students qualify for free or reduced price school meals, and over 85% of students are children of color. In 2013, the district made unprecedented academic progress, as Adams 14 Schools experienced the largest single-year increase in Transitional Colorado Assessment Program (TCAP) scores since 2007. His mantra – “Failure is Not an Option” – guides his leadership and will continue to inspire him to work harder on behalf of the students he engages.
Anibal Soler, Jr., Rochester, New York
Anibal Soler, Jr. is Principal of East High School, the largest urban high school in Rochester, New York, serving a population of 1,700 students. In 2000, Anibal began his career in urban education as an art teacher. Less than a decade later, he became Principal of East High School, a school that was then-labeled as persistently dangerous by the New York State Education Department. At East High School, Anibal has instilled a focus on increasing academic outcomes for students. He continues to lead the school’s transformational efforts by developing a partnership with the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education.