State Board of Education member urges Cal State LA grads to ‘go forth and serve’

May 22, 2017

At a time when some students are experiencing increased fear and anxiety, educators can play a crucial role in helping youth overcome and succeed, California State Board of Education member Feliza Ortiz-Licon told California State University, Los Angeles graduates during a moving keynote address Monday.

“Never doubt that power you hold to change the life outcome of a student,” Ortiz-Licon said at the commencement ceremony for the Charter College of Education.

Ortiz-Licon, who is an alumna of Cal State LA, described students who are impacted by a changed climate in the nation since the November election.   

“Our undocumented students and their families are reporting unprecedented rates of anxiety and stress as the threat of deportation looms,” Ortiz-Licon said. “Our Black students, Muslim students, Jewish students, LGBTQ, poor and first-generation students are targets of hate speech, discriminatory practices and regressive policies.”

Educators can provide the kind of quality education that will help students thrive.

“Fellow educators, you stand in the frontlines of this work,” she told graduates.

Cheryl Ney, dean of the Charter College of Education, described Ortiz-Licon as, “a champion of equitable education and opportunities for all students.”

In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Ortiz-Licon to the California State Board of Education. She was reappointed in 2016 to serve a four-year term. Ortiz-Licon is the senior director of K-16 education for the National Council of La Raza, the largest civil rights and advocacy organization for Latinos in the United States. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, a master’s degree from UC Berkeley, and a doctoral degree from Cal State LA and UC Irvine.

In her keynote address, Ortiz-Licon used her personal experiences to demonstrate the role educators can play in young lives. Ortiz-Licon was born to immigrant parents and started school as an English learner. But throughout her years in school, caring teachers recognized her gifts and encouraged her to achieve. Ortiz-Licon praised many of her teachers, including Nana Lawson Bush, V, a Cal State LA professor.

Graduates of the Charter College of Education are equipped to provide the kind of support that helped her succeed, she said.

“Your experience in the [Charter College of Education], learning from high caliber professors, engaging in rich and thought provoking discussions with peers, and serving high needs, highly talented and promising students has equipped you with an understanding of our students’ needs and abilities,” Oritz-Licon said.

She urged graduates to “go forth and serve.”  

Commencement 2017 began on Saturday, May 20 and ended Monday, May 22. More than 4,700 students received their diplomas during nine ceremonies. 


Cal State LA is ranked number one in the nation based on the upward mobility of its students. Founded in 1947, Cal State LA is the premier public comprehensive university in the heart of Los Angeles and is dedicated to the mission of engagement, service, and the public good. The University serves more than 27,000 students and more than 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the region we serve. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit