2018 Texas LDZ successfully debuts in San Antonio thanks to St. Mary’s
It was a bold move for the National Hispanic Institute to take the 2018 Texas LDZ program — long associated with Austin — and move it to San Antonio. But the bold move led to a once-in-a-lifetime experience for close to 200 students, primarily from Texas, but also including students from Mexico and Puerto Rico, who participated in one of NHI’s flagship programs at St. Mary’s University in the midst of San Antonio’s tricentennial year.
The 2018 Texas LDZ, in addition to being transformative for students attending the program, captured the attention of the San Antonio Express-News. The paper wrote a feature on the program, quoting co-educational directors George Rodriguez and Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez as well as several of the participating students about the experience. Saenz-Rodriguez had a particularly important quote about the transformative nature of the week-long LDZ program, saying, “The kid that comes in on Sunday, if we are successful, is not the kid who leaves here the following Sunday,” Saenz-Rodriguez said.
“The program was a great success this year with the added element of having 10 participants from Puerto Rico,” reflected Rodriguez several weeks after the program concluded. “We had an incredible mixture of demographics, with students from Mexico and students who came from five different states. Even the Texas participants were a mixture of small-town kids and kids from large urban areas. The dynamics of the group was interesting because they are very frustrated with the divisiveness of our politics; the Mexican students had just had their Presidential election.”
“They really came together and collaborated as one community,” he added. “We tried to mix it up a little by having party caucuses, but in the end they were all about what was in the best interest of the community they had created.”
A great deal of the 2018 Texas LDZ’s success came from the new partnership.
“We had a tremendous experience on the campus of St. Mary’s and we really felt that they were much more than just a host campus,” Rodriguez notes. “We had a real sense that St. Mary’s was a partner in our mission, and I have to give a lot of credit to John Carrillo who works in their Admissions Office. John is an NHIer and he understands and appreciates the journey that the students undergo in our program. We felt like St. Mary’s was working to ensure that the participants’ journey was as successful as it could be on their campus.”
“The city of San Antonio has a great vibe and is a great fit for our program,” he added. “San Antonio has a community feel to it and when you add the partnership with St. Mary’s it was a just a perfect recipe for success.”
The LDZ, short for Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session, named for the first Vice President of the Republic of Texas, started in Texas in 1983, and has been a mainstay of NHI’s mission since.