February 28, 2014 | Written by: Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director, Campaign for College Opportunity
Every Valentine’s Day my mom would do something very special for me. A new teddy bear, a Valentine mug, a balloon, and a card that would tell me how much she loved me. Today, I keep that tradition alive with my own children. But perhaps the biggest way my mom showed her love was letting me leave home and go to college.
My mom knew that if I earned a college degree a whole world of opportunity would open up. She had originally expected that I would live with her until I married so letting me go for college was a big act of love for her. My mom didn’t need a major research report to tell her there was value in a college education, or that there was a big payoff for California if it invested in sending me to college. She just knew, and she was right.
That’s why I love higher education. It changed my life and the lives of my family. That’s also why it angers and disappoints me that the door to college opportunity is closed to so many California students and disproportionately to low-income, underrepresented students.
This month I had the opportunity to speak at a Zocalo townhall on how our higher education system can be more inclusive of underrepresented groups. I made it a point to share how important it is to everyone—whether Black, Latino, Asian, White, young or old—that more students go to and complete college. Our collective future is directly tied to who graduates from college today. One more college graduate means one more person who doesn’t have to live in poverty, one more person who is financially independent and does not rely on the state’s social services, and one more person to contribute to the workforce and economy. We are all linked together.
The recent celebration of Black History Month further highlights this point. We recognize the accomplishments of so many Black Americans who collectively, continue to move forward our nation. But we all know there is so much more to do. The announcement of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative is an encouraging commitment from our nation’s highest office to “build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.” We pledge to do our part by ensuring boys and men of color in California benefit from the promise of college opportunity.
We have a lot to accomplish and we cannot accomplish it all if we do not work together. We have opportunity gaps to close, remediation rates to lower, and efforts to scale, to ensure that more underrepresented students go to and graduate college. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” In this month’s newsletter, there are plenty of policy recommendations that hold the promise of “righting” the path. We hope you won’t stop at reading about them, but that you will join the fight to help more students cross the graduation stage.
About the Author:Michele Siqueiros is the Executive Director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
To read her complete bio, click here. Follow her on Twitter @MSCollegeOpp