Education is the key to strengthening the workforce, which in turn boosts the American economy, President Barack Obama told students, lawmakers and community members May 9 at Manor New Tech High School near Austin as part of his new tour about middle-class jobs.
Obama said he chose to visit the Austin area as his first stop because there are great things happening in the city and surrounding areas.
"Our economy can't succeed unless our young people have the skills they need to succeed, and that's what's happening here, right at Manor New Tech," he told students. "There's a reason why teachers and principals from all over the country are coming down to see what you're up to. Because every day, this school is proving that every child has the potential to learn the real-world skills they need to succeed in college and beyond."
With about 330 students, Manor New Tech offers a curriculum that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. At the school, students learn about engineering, build robots, complete internships and by the time they graduate have given about 200 speeches, Obama said.
Obama said that other schools throughout the nation should look to Manor New Tech as an example of a school teaching students the real-world skills for today's jobs, including skills they need to compete in a high-tech environment.
In Austin, businesses have created 85,000 new jobs, companies including Apple and Visa are getting ready to open new offices and the tech sector now drives more than a quarter of Austin's economy, Obama said. He said that while the nationwide unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2008, that is not enough, and the U.S. must continue to make more middle-class jobs available.
There are three things Obama said the nation must focus on: making America a magnet for good jobs, helping people get educated and learn skills they need and enabling workers to be able to earn a living. He said he has sent proposals to Congress that he said would help achieve these goals, but some have not progressed. He said he plans to continue talking with members of Congress to push the proposals forward.
"All of us have to rally around the single greatest challenge that we face as a country right now, and that's reigniting the true engine of economic growth, a rising, thriving middle class, where if you work hard, no matter what you look like or where you come from, you can succeed."
Pointing to growing U.S. industries including technology, energy and the automobile industry, Obama said that America has "cleared away the rubble" of the economic crisis and is poised to move forward.
There was an air of excitement among the Manor New Tech juniors and seniors who were able to attend the remarks along with other Manor ISD students, as well as legislators, local dignitaries and media. Toward the back of the school's gymnasium, under bright overhead lights, students crowded together snapping photos, jumping up and down and clapping.
While most Manor New Tech students do not come from wealthy families, the majority of its students graduate. Almost every member of the graduating class last year went on to college, and 60 percent were the first in their family to do so, Obama said.
Obama said his administration has been working to make college more affordable for students throughout the nation, and the administration recently introduced the College Scorecard, an online tool that enables students to search for a college that is the right fit for them.
Taylor Jacko, a senior, said he plans to study information sciences after he graduates from Manor New Tech. While he said he has seen the president speak before in person, he said the May 9 speech was still overwhelming.
"It's crazy how he came to Manor, of all cities. It's just a great feeling knowing the president was here at my school," Jacko said. "Whenever he brought up how our school was the perfect example of what we need to succeed in future job opportunities, it made me feel proud inside, like I've been a part of a community that has been preparing me for something that will result in me being successful."
Manor New Tech senior Tevyn Washington had the opportunity to introduce the president, whom he said he considers a role model.
"It was a real honoring experience, something I will never forget for the rest of my life," he said.
Washington said he appreciated the president's remarks about the students' work.
"It just lets them know that their accomplishments and achievements are not going unnoticed," he said.
Jourdan Tucker, a sophomore at neighboring Manor High School, sang the national anthem before president's remarks. Manor ISD Superintendent Kevin Brackmeyer was also in attendance, along with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Manor Mayor Jeff Turner; and state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin.
Strama said that the American public rarely gets to hear the entirety of the president's remarks at such events, and he appreciated the opportunity to hear him talk at length about important issues that matter to the local community.
Other students at the school gathered in the cafeteria to watch the event being streamed online.
About Manor New Tech
Manor New Tech was built based on the New Technology Network model of project-based learning, which incorporates hands-on projects as well as college and career preparation.
Children apply to attend the school, and students are accepted through a blind lottery.
Manor ISD serves more than 8,000 students at two high schools, two middle schools, seven elementary schools and one alternative academy.
The president was also scheduled to speak May 9 at the Austin facility of Applied Materials, a company that develops technology to help enhance products such as smartphones, flat-screen TVs and solar panels.
He was scheduled to tour one of the company's semiconductor manufacturing lines and talk about making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing, according to the White House press office. His remarks will be broadcast live at https://blog.appliedmaterials.com/watch-live-potus.