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Latina Scientist, DREAMer Among First Lady's State of the Union Guests

Image: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS EDUCATION)JONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

When he takes to the podium Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will try to hammer home the urgency he wants the nation to feel for issues he's already raised in advance of his State of the Union speech. Helping him out will be some strategically invited guests who may only get a quick mention in his speech or a camera shot, but who are there to personify the issues important to the president as his occupancy at Pennsylvania Avenue winds down. The guests flanking first lady Michelle Obama include three Latinos:

  • Nicole Hernandez Hammer is a climate change researcher specializing in sea level rise and a field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, a group of mothers and fathers fighting air pollution and raising the alarm about climate change. Hernandez Hammer, who is of Cuban heritage and came to the U.S from Guatemala, works with researchers to produce sea level rise vulnerability maps and other research for government agencies and non-profit foundations. The vulnerability of Latino communities to climate change is a special focus of her research. She blogs for
  • Anthony Mendez – The University of Hartford in Connecticut freshman was billed by the White House as representative of "the core" of Michelle Obama's Reach Higher Initiative, aimed at steering children to post-high school education or professional training. While in high school, Mendez witnessed the murder of his best friend and lived with his family in a homeless shelter. Despite the obstacles, he became the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is planning to major in political science.
  • Ana Zamora – Zamora, of Dallas, is a beneficiary of Obama's 2012 executive action granting deportation deferrals and work permits to young immigrants. Zamora came with her parents from Mexico when she was 1, the Dallas Morning News reported. House GOP members voted last week to end those deferrals. Her parents could get similar benefits under the executive action Obama took in November, which Republicans also want to block. Zamora attends the Texas campus of Northwood University, a Michigan-based business school and wrote to Obama in September.

– Suzanne Gamboa