President Obama to Latino Parents: "You're the Single Biggest Factor in Your Child’s Success"

Get involved. That was President Obama’s message to parents in his first town hall on Latino education Monday. During the town hall, held at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington DC, he also stressed the importance of investing in early education programs, improving teacher quality and passing the DREAM Act allowing children of undocumented parents to stay in the country if they enroll in college or military service.

“No matter where you’re from, you’re the single biggest factor in your child’s success,” he said.

The president said that slashing high Latino dropout rates and improving college attendance and completion—only 13 percent of Latinos have a bachelor’s degree—is key to the country’s future. "This is an issue that's not just important for the Latino community here in the United States; this is an issue that is critical for the success of America generally," Obama said. "If our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won't succeed as a nation."

At the Univision-sponsored event, hosted by network anchor Jorge Ramos, Obama took questions from students and parents in the audience of 600, and answered pre-recorded questions from around the country.

The town hall came on the heels of census figures that show that Latinos number 50.5 million of the U.S. population and accounted for half the growth in the past decade. Latino kids make up almost a quarter of grade school age students.

When asked what the government could do to help parents with limited English skills and long work hours help their kids, Obama said that while the government could help ensure that parents have well-paying jobs and encourage schools to engage parents to make sure kids graduate and go to college, parents had to put forth the effort to read to their kids, check homework and communicate with their children’s schools.

He also urged Latinos in general to volunteer at schools, helping translate for Latino parents who speak little or no English, and urged Latino students to bring effort and the right attitude to the classroom. “Young people should know that they have a president who believes in them,” Obama said.