February 16, 2016  

Actor/Activists Edward James Olmos and Rick Najera Addressed the Absence of Blacks and Latinos in Higher Education at CDU President’s Breakfast

Education experts gave reactions and solutions at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s 50th Anniversary Event


LOS ANGELES, CA — Over 200 guests gathered at the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel February 11, 2016 for a timely discussion on the absence of Latinos and African Americans in higher education, at a President’s Breakfast hosted by Dr. David M Carlisle, President of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU). Celebrities Edward James Olmos and Rick Najera keynoted the event, drawing from their own experiences and successes in education.  

Afterwards, a panel of educators then discussed causes and solutions, including: Clarence H. Braddock III, M.D., M.P.H., M.A.C.P.,  Vice Dean of Education, Chief Medical Education Officer, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine; Mildred García, Ed.D,  President, California State University Fullerton; Steve O. Michael, PhD, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, CDU; Luis Pedraja, PhD, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Antioch University, and; Francisco Rodriguez, PhD,  Chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District.  

“Education is a fundamental resource and access to higher education is a challenge for many communities. We need to do everything we can to expand access so all of our society has the ability to advance themselves,” said Dr. Carlisle. “We are proud to offer this first ever President’s Breakfast and that CDU could open the discourse on such an important topic.”

“The question has to be: do we as a human body have hope? Many of us might not realize we do. Hope is the key. Wisdom without hope dies. Hope without wisdom is hopeless. Start mentoring and start helping kids get to the next level,” said Edward James Olmos, founder of Cinema Youth Program by the Latino International Film Institute. “We have to fill our children with desire. Our program is getting kids at the 3rd and 4th grade level to dream and tell their stories. The outcome of this has been a pathway into college and its becoming stronger and stronger.”

Najera discussed the school-to-prison pipeline and California’s need to invest in more education: “California spends 82 cents on education for every dollar on incarceration. There are more prisons being built than colleges,” he said.

Francisco Rodriguez, PhD, Chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District, said, “The majority of African American and Latino students that go onto higher education go on to two-year programs. They come to us to prepare. Community colleges are hiding in plain sight. We are the gateway to higher education and are a part of higher education.”

The event was a first in a series to honor CDU’s 50th Anniversary. The University was founded on August 22, 1966 following the Watts revolt, to address the inadequate access to education and healthcare in the community of Watts and greater South Los Angeles. CDU has earned designation as a minority-serving institution by the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, and is recognized by the Department of Education (DOE) under Title III B as a Historically Black Graduate Institution (HBGI). The University is also a charter member of the Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of Hispanic people through research initiatives, training opportunities, and academic development.

President Carlisle thanked Torrey Pines Bank for serving as the presenting sponsor of the President’s Breakfast and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Second District, for serving as a 50th Anniversary Sponsor. “We also thank our table sponsors: AltaMed, California State University Fullerton, Charles R. Drew Medical Society, Cedars-Sinai, Daphne Calmes, MD, David M. Carlisle, MD, PhD, Jaydut Vadgama, PhD, Los Angeles Community College District, Martin Luther King Jr., Community Hospital, James Rosser, PhD, UCLA Health, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, University of Southern California, and Watts Health,” he said.

For more information on the 50th Anniversary celebrations, visit CDU’s newly launched website,, and follow #CDUat50 on social media. The next event is the 4th Annual Legacy Leaders Spring Gala on April 14, 2016.



Isidra Person-Lynn,
Communications Specialist
323.563.5833 or 213.422.8707




About Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, medical and health sciences institution. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,700 post-graduate physicians, more than 1,200 physician assistants, 450 nurses and hundreds of other health professionals. CDU’s mission is to conduct education, research and clinical services in the context of community engagement to train health professionals who promote wellness, provide care with excellence and compassion, and transform the health of underserved communities. For more information, visit .


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