Cardona ’97 nominated to serve as U.S. education secretary

Marisa Nadolny

Christmas came a little early this year for Central alumnus and Connecticut State Commissioner of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona ’97, whom President-elect Joe Biden selected as his nominee for education secretary.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally introduced him at a press conference on Dec. 23 in Wilmington, Del., following an initial announcement from the Biden transition team on Dec. 22.

In his remarks, President-elect Biden affirmed his belief in the transformative power of public education and pointed to Dr. Cardona as a prime example.

“Public education helped Miguel become the first in his family to go to college; the first to earn a doctorate,” Biden said. “With that preparation and grounding, Dr. Cardona has brought his heart, his knowledge, and his passion for education to bear on behalf of students across Connecticut.”

Cardona credited his family and community as the drivers of his many years of success in educational leadership.

“I was blessed to attend the public schools in my hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, where I was able to expand my horizons and become the first in my family to graduate college and become a teacher, a principal, an assistant superintendent in the same community that gave me so much,” he said. “That is the power of America; and I, being bilingual and bicultural, am as American as apple pie and rice and beans.”

Ever the educator, Cardona even suggested a perfect homework assignment for the American people to equalize education and inspire unity going forward.

“It’s our responsibility, it’s our privilege, to take this moment and to do the most American thing imaginable: To forge opportunity out of crisis. To draw on our resolve, our ingenuity, and our tireless optimism as a people and build something better than we’ve ever had before,” he said.

Governor Ned Lamont appointed Cardona to lead the state Department of Education in August 2019. He is the state’s first Latino commissioner of Education.

In recent months, Commissioner Cardona has been working with faculty and administrators at Central to implement Next Gen Educators, a new program that will bring motivated college students from Central into Connecticut’s K through 12 classrooms. The initiative is designed to provide future educators with experience and mentorship while addressing districts’ most pressing staffing needs.

“As the first Latina president of this university, it is so wonderful to see Dr. Cardona forge new paths in education for the Latino community,” said CCSU President Zulma R. Toro. “The entire Central Family is so proud to count Dr. Cardona among our distinguished alumni; his nomination as education secretary is well deserved and a natural next stop for someone who has dedicated his life to equity in education.”

In an address at the University’s 2019 winter commencement ceremony, Dr. Cardona reflected on his experience as a first-generation college student and how his life changed at Central.

“I literally grew up at Central,” Dr. Cardona said. “My experiences at Central … shaped me into the person I am as a father, husband, and now commissioner of education.”

Dr. Cardona cited several Central professors who inspired his fast rise in education.

“They helped me realize that I needed to dream big, and because of them, I have the blessing of serving over half a million students in the state of Connecticut,” he said.