Washington, DC, Jul 07, 2011 -- Dr. Roland Arriola from Edinburg, Texas, was at the White House yesterday for a meeting he was asked to participate in with President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the President's Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes and leaders from rural communities across the country for the White House Rural Champions of Change event.
Dr. Arriola is one of 18 people from 14 different states that were invited to share their ideas directly with the Obama Administration about how to strengthen rural communities and promote economic growth.
Dr. Arriola was selected for this honor because of the work he has done to promote education and college readiness throughout the Hispanic community. After retiring from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2008, Dr. Arriola, like many retirees in America, wanted to continue to be of service to his community. He formed the Texas Valley Communities Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to provide funding and support to grass roots organizations in South Texas seeking to develop and implement effective college readiness outreach programs for Hispanics and at-risk students. Through his efforts, and with the help from grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Motor Company Fund, Meadows Foundation, and the Houston Endowment, Dr. Arriola's foundation and its partner grass roots organizations have created the Engaging Communities for College Readiness (ENCORE) program. During the last three years, ENCORE has worked with more than 30 local school districts in South Texas and provided college readiness mentoring to more than 4,800 Hispanic and at-risk middle school and high school students. Prior to his retirement, Dr. Arriola was named as one of the Top 50 Most Important Hispanics in Business and Technology for his leadership role in establishing the National Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Conference, an event held every year during Hispanic Heritage Month. HESTEC, now in its tenth year, attracts more than 50,000 parents, teachers, administrators and students to its week-long celebration of science, technology, engineering, and math initiatives.
This week the White House Champions of Change focus is on farmers, ranchers and rural residents who are making a positive impact in their communities. Champions of Change is a White House initiative that recognizes ordinary Americans who are accomplishing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. The administration acknowledges that the best ideas come directly from the American people, and on a weekly basis a Champions of Change roundtable is held to spotlight some of the top ideas that are making change a reality across the country.
Today’s event is part of a series of meetings that are being held across the country this summer as part of the White House Rural Council (WHRC) and the White House Business Council to coordinate programs across government and encourage public-private partnerships to improve economic conditions, quality of life and create jobs in rural communities.
In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first WHRC chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The Council will provide recommendations for investment in rural areas and will coordinate Federal engagement with a variety of rural stakeholders, including agricultural organizations, small businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $150 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.