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Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Inspires Ninth Graders to Find Their Passion

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    By Robert C. Jones Jr.
    UM News

    At UM's Whitten Learning Center, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen greets one of the more than 130 students participating in Breakthrough Miami College Bound.

    At UM’s Whitten Learning Center, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen greets one of the more than 130 students participating in Breakthrough Miami College Bound.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 7, 2014) – A former teacher who once took the advice of a parent and ran for elected office, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told a group of ninth-grade students on the University of Miami campus Monday that Congress should mirror the racial and ethnic diversity of the nation and urged the youngsters to consider entering the political arena after college to help solve problems.

    “It’s not only gratifying and satisfying, but a lot of fun,” Ros-Lehtinen said at UM’s Whitten Learning Center, where the 130 students had gathered as part of Breakthrough Miami College Bound.

    The academic enrichment program encourages students from underserved communities to graduate from high school and attend college, exposing them to coursework in a university setting over six weeks.

    Following the initiative’s philosophy of inspiring knowledge in students, Ros-Lehtinen, who earned her Ph.D. from UM’s School of Education and Human Development, described herself as a “lifelong learner” and told the students to find “your [educational] passion and hone in on it.”

    She also related some of the challenges she faces as a member of Congress, from passing immigration reform to representing constituents who are dissatisfied with the economy. “And they [her constituents] are worried about their kids, they’re worried about you,” said Ros-Lehtinen, the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress. “They want you to have a better life than they have.”

    Ros-Lehtinen noted she would be flying back to Washington, D.C., the same day to help deal with the immigration crisis at the border. Tens of thousands of Central American women and children have illegally crossed the border in recent months to escape violence in that region. President Obama is expected to ask Congress for more than $2 billion in emergency funds to help deal with the problem.

    Ros-Lehtinen told the ninth graders that while many voters are frustrated with Congress and its inability to pass immigration reform, “what makes me hopeful are bright, young faces like all of you.”

    Biology, film, math, psychology, and women’s studies are just a few of the courses the students are taking during the Breakthrough program. They have also toured UM colleges and schools and attended sessions at the Toppel Career Center and the entrepreneurship initiative the Launch Pad.

    Vicki Burns, the faculty member in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies who partnered with UM’s Government and Community Relations office to arrange for Ros-Lehtinen’s visit, “wanted the students to hear from someone who has made many positive changes and some crucial ‘firsts.’ ”

    “I wanted them to have a real-life example that their dreams are possible,” said Burns, “and that they are truly needed in America’s political system.”


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