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AfAmEd Connector September 2021: Supporting AfroLatino Students Roundtable, Updates from ED and more

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The Connector

September 2021

Updates From the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

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Hispanic Heritage Month AfAmEd Connector Roundtable Invitation

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA), in collaboration with the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (Hispanic Initiative), housed at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), invites you to attend the upcoming virtual roundtable El Apoyo: Making Space for AfroLatino Student Success on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. ET.

WHIEEAA established the African American Education (AfAmEd) Connector Roundtable Series to address gaps and opportunities for African Americans students and families, and to highlight programs, policies, and practices that accelerate the learning and development of Black students of all ages. 

This discussion, hosted by WHIEEAA senior advisor Monique Toussaint and Hispanic Initiative senior advisor Emmanuel G. Caudillo, will give participants access to information, resources, and best and promising practices from ED, other federal agencies, and the field.

Register to attend at

Updates From the Department

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New Resource to Address Impact of Lost Instructional Time Through American Rescue Plan Funding

Students across the country continue to return to in-person learning after more than a year of varied access to the education they need to succeed. Some estimates show that 3 million students have either been consistently absent from or have not been actively participating in remote learning since the beginning of the pandemic. ED recently released “Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time,” a resource to support educators as they implement, refine, and work to continuously improve their strategies for supporting students. We know that across the country the hard work of supporting students through this pandemic has been long underway. This guidance is intended to highlight best practices and evidence-based approaches, all of which can be supported with American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. This new resource is part of the Department’s Return to School Roadmap, a guide for states, schools, educators, and parents on the return to in-person learning this fall. The roadmap focuses on three landmark priorities, including building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health.

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New Grant Program to Provide Funding to School Districts Penalized for Implementing COVID Safety Measures

ED announced that it will launch a new grant program to provide additional funding to school districts that have funds withheld by their state or are otherwise financially penalized for implementing strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, such as universal indoor masking. The announcement is part of President Biden's plan to combat COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of students, educators, families, and school communities.

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Higher Education Updates

First, on Aug. 20, the ED’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office announced it has retroactively waived interest on federal student loans held by more than 47,000 current and former active duty service members, aided by a data matching agreement with the Department of Defense that substantially improves access to the interest waiver benefit.

Second, on Aug. 24, ED rescinded the partial relief methodology for approved borrower defense to repayment claims, released in 2017 and 2019 and updated in 2020, and declared it will assess approved claims based on their merits under the applicable regulations, applying a presumption of full relief as a starting point.

Third, on Aug. 26, ED announced it will make $1.1 billion in closed school discharges available to an additional 115,000 borrowers who attended the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute.  This decision is based on a new review of the problems leading up to ITT’s closure.  It is estimated that 43% of these borrowers are currently in default.  (Note: This action brings the total amount of loan discharges approved by ED since January 2021 to $9.5 billon, affecting over 563,000 borrowers.)

Moreover, in a letter to students, educators, and other stakeholders, ED announced it will no longer enforce the part of the 2020 amendments to the Title IX regulations regarding the prohibition of statements not subject to cross-examination — applying only to postsecondary institutions (see OCR’s blog post).

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The Digitial Literacy Accelerator Application

The Digital Literacy Accelerator (DLA)calls upon interested participants to design, prototype, pilot, and refine an education intervention aimed at helping students and adults learn crucial skills related to strengthening digital literacy, particularly around civil discourse and identifying and combating misinformation. Applications are due Oct. 7, 2021.

The Digital Literacy Accelerator will offer participants a hands-on opportunity to iterate on new ideas that can be applied to innovative educational interventions related to digital literacy. Each team of two to five members will have a chance to win a minimum of $2,000 in prize money by completing four milestones in the design process. Teams will receive a minimum of $500 for each milestone associated with their acceptance and convening activities. Those selected to participate will receive support from leading experts in both digital literacy and design thinking, with an emphasis on equity-oriented design processes, as well as support from peers and leaders. Learn more on the DLA website.

Student News and Opportunities

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Girls Who Invest Summer Program Applications Are Open

Girls Who Invest (GWI) is excited to announce that the application for its 2022 summer programs is now open! As part of its mission to increase the number of women leaders in the investment management industry, GWI welcomes applications from sophomore students across all majors for this year’s summer intensive program and online intensive programs. It also welcomes applications from first-year students for the online intensive program Why Girls Who Invest? GWI offers

  • free education on fundamental finance and investing concepts.
  • opportunities for paid internships with leading investment firms.
  • mentorship from industry professionals with years of experience.
  • a supportive community by your side as you start your career and beyond!

What programs are available?

  • Summer Intensive Program: Four weeks of free academic instruction from leading professors followed by a six-week paid internship with one of 110+ partner investment firms. (Open to college sophomores).
  • Online Intensive Program: A free, self-guided educational experience that offers the opportunity to learn from the CFA Institute, Wall Street Prep, and Wharton Online. (Open to college first-years and sophomores).

Who is eligible?

  • All majors are welcome — no finance experience is necessary!
  • Applicants must be studying at a four-year U.S. college or university or have a guaranteed transfer to one.

When is the deadline to apply? Friday, Oct. 29, 2021

Learn more about GWI’s programs and application by joining one of the upcoming information sessions.

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Undergraduate Energy Competitions

Solar Decathlon

Are you an undergrad looking to make a difference in clean energy? Get together a team from your school and apply now for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. In the 2022 Design Challenge (one-year design-only competition) or the 2023 Build Challenge (two-year design-build competition) for collegiate teams to design and build high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewables! Finalist teams will be invited to vie for victory during the Competition Event at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Apply here by Oct. 26, 2021.


Have you heard about the building energy-efficiency competition for undergrads yet? Check out JUMP into STEM, a virtual competition. The JUMP (Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Make connections, Promote tech-to-market) competition is open to teams of two to four students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities to solve critical challenges in the field of building science on the themes of equal access to healthy indoor air, resilience for all in the wake of disaster, and solving market adoption for emerging energy efficient technologies. Winners of the competition will have the opportunity to receive 10-week, paid internships at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, or the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Challenges close on Nov. 12, 2021. The final competition will be held at ORNL on Jan. 27 and 28, 2022.

Educator, Parent, and Family News and Opportunities

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College and Career Prep Resources for Parents

It’s never too early to start thinking about higher education for your student. Use these checklists from Federal Student Aid to prepare, from supporting your child in his or her studies to setting up a college savings account. Go for gold when the 2022–23 FAFSA® form launches on Oct. 1, 2021. Everyone is a winner when they complete the form. 

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STEM Teachers Wanted: Apply for Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program provides unique opportunities for accomplished K–12 STEM educators to serve 11 months in a federal agency or U.S. Congressional office. Einstein Fellows bring their extensive classroom knowledge and experiences to their host offices to inform federal STEM education efforts. To be eligible, applicants must be U.S. citizens who are currently employed full-time in a U.S. public or private elementary or secondary school or school district. Applicants must have been teaching full-time in a public or private elementary or secondary school for at least five of the last seven years in a STEM discipline. The application deadline is Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. ET.

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What Works Clearinghouse: STEM Webinars on Demand

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) just released two webinars to introduce educators to evidence-based resources that support instruction. Given the heightened demands on educator time this school year, the webinars have been prerecorded so they are available to listen to when convenient.

In these webinars, educators and experts provide an overview of the different WWC resources that educators can use to inform their decisions on selecting instructional programs and practices and highlight examples from evidence-based resources to improve math, science, reading and writing skills.

The STEM webinar features

Additional resources, such as the full libraries of practice guides and intervention reports and other resources to support educators to use evidence-based practices, are also available for free on the WWC website.

Funding Opportunities at ED

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ED’s discretionary grant applications page contains a list of competitions currently open.

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Welcome to The Connector!

Published by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA), housed at the U.S. Department of Education (ED or the Department), this newsletter helps to ensure our stakeholders are aware of opportunities, events, news, and more at ED.

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Back to School

As families return to school, the Department shares tips like getting into a groove. Establishing routines can help your kids adjust as the school year starts. Be consistent with waking up, getting ready, and homework time so your student is on schedule for success. Getting enough sleep is important for staying engaged (and awake!) at school. Elementary-age kids should get 10–12 hours of sleep each night; teens should get 8½–9½ hours. “Back to school” also means “back to homework.” From setting a schedule to encouraging good study habits, use this checklist to set your child up for success.


COVID-19 and School Reopening Resources

In a recent press release, the CDC offered a number of health tips for a successful school year for students, teachers, school staff, and their families.  (Reminder: The CDC has specific COVID-19 guidance for K–12 schools and institutions of higher education.)  For 

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