In early April 2011, Lily Najera and Halek Sanchez, two UDC-CC students, accompanied staff members Wesley Walsman, Academic Advisor, and Raysa Leer, Program Specialist, to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) annual Capitol Forum in downtown Washington, DC.
The Capitol Forum was conducted over two days. The events of the first day were comprised of panels of speakers discussing issues pertinent to the Latino community such as the changing demographics in the U.S. and key legislative proposals set to go before the 112th Congress that could potentially reduce funding for higher education. On the second day, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke to the forum attendees prior to their visit to their Congressional representatives on Capitol Hill to encourage them to request funding for education. UDC-CC students met with offices of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Senator Jim Webb to address their concerns about the proposed reduction of federal funding for Pell grants, which would have adverse affects on the Hispanic population at large.
Student Lily Najera (who was born in El Salvador but grew up in DC) stated that she appreciated being able to hear key guest speakers at the Forum, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, talk about crucial issues affecting Hispanic students around the nation. Moreover, Ms. Najera said that she found President Obama’s call to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build” our nation’s global competition to be extremely relevant to Hispanic students as the fastest growing minority population in the U.S. She also said that she believes “we have to start focusing on providing equal higher education opportunities to all students if we want to be number one in the world”.
Following the Forum, Ms. Najera concluded her thoughts on the event by saying, “I want to thank UDC-CC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this historic event and to meet with professional leaders that are truly making a difference for our country”.