We had a great opening day at the Target 2020 Summit, as college students from all over South Florida convened in Miami to meet, collaborate, and engage with each other to discuss increasing civic engagement on their campuses and throughout their communities.
We were honored to welcome our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Martha J. Kanter, the Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education! Dr. Kanter is an especially apt choice for this Summit, whose background was of particular significance to this crowd of community college student leaders.
Dr. Kanter is the first community college leader to serve in the position of Under Secretary. Prior to her nomination by President Obama and confirmation by the U.S. Senate, she served as Chancellor of one of the largest community college systems in the country (Foothill-De Anza in California, with 45,000 students and a budget of $400 million).
As Under Secretary, Dr. Kanter is charged with ensuring that the United States has “the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by 2020.”
In her keynote speech, Dr. Kanter first described her experience leading up to her appointment by President Obama to the position of Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Kanter “spent 35 years in California” and when she first received the offer she thought “Why me? Why now?” but explained “There are times in your life when things happen and you have opportunities you can’t say no to.”
Dr. Kanter then described to the participants her top priorities as Under Secretary. Her hope is to “Educate the top 100 percent of students in this country who want the opportunity to go to college”
Dr. Kanter commented on the importance of education for young people, explaining “We lose a high school student every 22 seconds. If you can get that 22 second person back on track you’re giving a gift to this country.”
And how can we give that gift? Dr. Kanter explained that the key is support, stating that one student told her “What made a difference in my life was someone who believed in me” adding “That sentence has resonated with me for 30 years”.
Finally, Dr. Kanter encouraged our participants to do everything they can to complete school and pursue their unique visions, arguing that “These are the kind of ideas that don’t happen in Washington DC”
She told our students “You are the future of our democracy. We’re going to need people like you to take over” and advised them to “Use all the networks and the resources you have here…Put pressure on people who have the means to help you think systemically”
It is clear that Dr. Kanter has a vision for community colleges that goes beyond the data about completion rates and affordability issues.
Thank you for joining us Dr. Kanter! Your presence was of great significance to all of us here at Mobilize.org and it means so much that you’re working so hard to support our students.
We’ll see you all soon as the Target 2020 Summit continues with some great speakers and interactive Table Discussions where students will develop the solutions to some of the biggest challenges they face.
Tune in to our Webcast and make sure to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!
Megan Emme is the New Media Coordinator at Mobilize.org and runs their blogging program, The Millennial Report. Megan is a Junior at San Francisco State University and also works as the SF Regional Coordinator for the Revolution Hunger Campaign. She hopes to pursue a career empowering young people to advocate for themselves as well as make a difference in their communities.