U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today announced the appointment of William Mendoza to lead the newly created White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.
President Obama signed an executive order on Friday, Dec. 2, that established the Initiative to help expand educational opportunities and improve educational outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native students. The order includes opportunities to learn their native languages, cultures and histories and receive a complete and competitive education that prepares them for college and a career.
"We're delighted that Bill will continue to lead the Administration's efforts to expand opportunities and improve educational outcomes for all American Indian and Alaska Native students," Duncan said. "His exceptional leadership in reinvigorating collaboration between federal agencies, educators and tribal leaders will be invaluable as we move forward in addressing the challenges that face our American Indian and Alaska Native students."
Mendoza said the Initiative will work, among other critical areas, to identify pathways that enable those who have dropped out to re-enter the education training pipeline, acquire industry-recognized credentials and obtain sustainable jobs, and expand access to high-quality education programs leading to career advancement, especially in the STEM fields.
"We're working hard to reduce the American Indian and Alaska Native student dropout rate and making sure students who stay in high school are ready to start their career by the time they complete college," Mendoza said. "The Obama Administration is also committed to strengthening the capacity of TCUs, which play an important role, often serving as anchors in some of the country's most remote areas."
Mendoza, an Oglala and Sicangu Lakota, has been working as a director and senior advisor to the Secretary on American Indian and Alaska Native education policies since the beginning of the year. He previously worked as a language arts teacher at Pine Ridge High School in Pine Ridge, S.D. While also pursuing a doctorate in education leadership at Montana State University, he served as a principal at the Monforton School in Bozeman, Mont. Mendoza earned a bachelor of arts in humanities from Fort Lewis College and a master of education from MSU.