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Mount Saint Mary's students take a group photo with Secretary John B. King, Jr.

MSMU welcomes U.S Department of Education Secretary, John B. King, Jr.

On Oct. 11, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. hosted a town hall at Mount Saint Mary's University to meet with students from the Mount and other local high schools, colleges and universities. With him on stage was Mount alum Alejandra Ceja ’96, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH). The town hall, held on the Mount's Doheny Campus, focused on discussing college accessibility, affordability, and tools available for success. It was held in partnership with We are mitú, a digital engagement media brand for young Latinos.

Both King and Ceja began by sharing their personal challenges growing up and what shaped their academic and career paths. Their stories, much like those of today’s first-generation high school and college students, led to a discussion on what type of resources are available for students and parents.

Among the many resources they shared, Ceja emphasized WHIEEH’s brand new initiative titled, ¡Gradúate! 2.0, which provides the Hispanic community with information and tools to help students plan for college. Ceja said that “…information should not be a barrier to our success and we shouldn’t have to rely on luck” to take the steps needed for a well-rounded education.

King added that “it is important to start early and get information early about colleges and financial aid.” He informed them about FAFA's new and efficient application and encouraged attendees not to delay  applying for federal aid since there are about “$2 billion that are left unclaimed by students.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the town hall, students asked what type of resources are available to parents and to those who are transitioning from high school to college. They also shared their struggles as AB540 students and as students juggling school and work.

A recording of the town hall, which was streamed live on Facebook, can be viewed at

Some of the resources mentioned at the town hall are listed here:

  • ¡Gradúate! 2.0, an initiative by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics on how to plan for college
  • College Navigator, a site that focuses on helping you find the right college
  • College Scorecard, a site that provides information on how much colleges cost and more.
  • FAFSA, the new and improved application for applying to financial aid
  • First in the World, a program for improving postsecondary education completion
  • Bright Spots, an online catalogue of orgs showing support to Latino communities 


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