Better Make Room Advisory Board Members Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Join

Michelle Obama and Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute Scholars

at 5th Annual College Signing Day


On Wednesday, May 2, 2018, the Cisneros Foundation was honored to take part in the 5th annual College Signing Day, hosted by Former First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Reach Higher initiative at the Temple’s Liacouras Center, in Philadelphia.

Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros joined 18 Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute scholars to celebrate thousands of Class of 2018 high school students make a promise to higher education. Nationwide, 600,000 students were registered to participate, with events happening in 2,000 locations, including Jacki Cisneros’ Los Angeles-based organization, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera at El Rancho High School, in Pico Rivera, California.

Former first lady Michelle Obama poses with Cisneros Scholars at College Signing Day (Photo: Chuck Kennedy)

“I’m grateful that through Cisneros Foundation partnerships, we can provide inspiring and life-changing experiences to Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute scholars, such as College Signing Day and meeting Mrs. Obama,” said Jacki Cisneros, President of the Cisneros Foundation and Generation 1st-Degree-Pico Rivera. “Gilbert and I have dedicated the last several years to creating programs and opportunities for our hometown Pico Rivera students to reach higher, and it’s very rewarding to see our students thriving at their colleges, and our current senior high school class at El Rancho High School where we host Generation 1st-Degree programs committing to higher education. Congratulations Class of 2018!”

Among the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute scholars was Karen Lopez, a Generation 1st-Degree alumni and Better Make Room intern. In 2016, Karen was invited to attend the former First Lady’s Reach for the Top: Beating The Odds summit at the White House, and listen to Mrs. Obama speak.

At this year’s College Signing Day, Karen had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Obama during the event, and be in the same room with celebrities including Bradley Cooper, Rebel Wilson, Zendaya, Robert De Niro, Camila Cabello, Questlove, Anthony Mackie and Janelle Monae.

Former first lady Michelle Obama hugs Karen Lopez at College Signing Day. (Photo: Chuck Kennedy)

“Meeting Mrs. Obama was heartwarming and an experience I never imagined could happen,” said Lopez. “Her words are always inspiring, and they reminded me to continue to set the bar high for myself and to encourage my peers to do the same. I’m grateful for my experience with Generation 1st Degree, the support of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute and the opportunity to intern with Better Make Room. All of these experiences have encouraged me to strive harder. If it weren’t for this support system, I know I wouldn’t have challenged myself to go to college out of state, which has provided me with the most valuable experiences. As a first-generation student, I’m speechless when I think about how far I’ve come from Pico Rivera.”

Gilbert and Jackie Cisneros are the founders of The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation and Generation First Degree-Pico Rivera, both organizations that are committed to improving the level of Hispanic education in the country. George Washington University alumnus Gilbert Cisneros, BA’ 94, and his wife, Jacki, also established the George Washington University Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute to help qualified students attain academic success, build leadership skills, and engage in a long-term commitment to making a difference within the Hispanic community. In 2017, the Cisneros’ were inaugurated into the Better Make Room Advisory Board, chaired by Mrs. Obama. Board members consist of educational luminaries and leaders who share best practices and ideas for improving college access and completion rates for underserved children.

For more information about The Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation, please visit