NHI’s first Fort Worth coach wins scholarship to Columbia
Valeria Escobar, a high school senior at Uplift Summit International Prep in Arlington—and a pioneer in the National Hispanic Institute’s burgeoning Fort Worth program—is headed to Columbia University in the fall, supported by a scholarship and ready to pursue an intriguing slate of studies.
Her very first NHI experience—in the 2015 Texas Great Debate at Austin College in Sherman, as part of the Dallas team—was a catalyst for what was to come. “What I quickly realized,” she notes, “and what was something that was so fundamental about the Great Debate experience, is that as an NHIer, you are held to a higher standard because they are preparing you to be the leaders of tomorrow.”
Escobar took that leadership directly into the Great Debate, volunteering to be the first coach for the newly-created Fort Worth region that sent a team to the 2016 Texas Ambassador Great Debate at the University of Texas at Austin, and then to the 2017 Texas Great Debate. While helping Fort Worth transition into its own region, she continued on her own personal NHI journey, serving on the Supreme Court at the 2016 Colorado LDZ and completing the NHI triad of core high school programs at the 2017 Texas CWS.
She credits what she terms the “rich legacy of Latinx leadership” in Tarrant County as laying the foundations for NHI to launch a Fort Worth region. She notes that its launch has been “very exciting but also very daunting,” noting that there’s “undeniably a learning curve in the process, where we are still gathering a Rolodex of collective experiences that allow us to become increasingly established as a region.”
“Thanks to those tireless efforts,” she says of those who made the NHI Fort Worth region possible, “We are now backed by a community of loving parents, administrators, teachers, elected officials who have been compelled by our efforts to mobilize young leaders even at early stages. And today NHI at Fort Worth has build a culture of community engagement that is facilitated by being situated in an area where people are receptive to redefining their conceptions of leaders, of leadership, which is a notion that is so resonant in the robust and already established Latinx community in Fort Worth.”
Escobar chose Columbia because of an approach she saw as not unlike NHI’s, seeing its required core curriculum designed to “really cultivate reasoned thinking and understanding of complex human matters. As someone who is conditioned to think in terms of the leaders developing other leaders, as a part of NHI, I intentionally selected that institution because it extends that intellectual responsibility to their students.”
Escobar plans a double major in Women & Gender Studies and Creative Writing, with an eye toward a career in journalism. Though her NHI experiences helped prepare her for Columbia, she sees it having a much more holistic effect on her life.
“My time at NHI wasn’t something that could nearly be reduced to a resume description,” she notes. “It really extended the way in which I pursue this process with confidence, rooted in the belief that the skills I developed during my time at the NHI were valuable at a community like Columbia.”