Texas LDZ provides leadership lessons, impresses its St. Mary’s hosts
Victoria Holmes, a University of San Diego student at the National Hispanic Institute’s 2019 Texas LDZ program, filed this report following her eight days with the Texas LDZ students at St. Mary’s University.
The 2019 Texas LDZ closed out another successful program at St. Mary’s University on Sunday, with Governor Victor Meza, from Coronado High School in El Paso, Texas, signing six bills into legislation. Two more passed into legislation after overriding the governor’s veto, incorporating eight bills overall to the 2019 Texas LDZ class. All eight bills represent the assets of the Latino community, building on the values of future leaders.
The community that the participants created shows a small vision of the future, one full of hope and inspiration. This vision was definitely noticed by representatives from the program’s host institution. Carmen Cruz, a STEM Curriculum Specialist at St. Mary’s, noticed a group of NHI students at dinner, poring over their work. Impressed by their dedication and passion, she asked to speak to a group of students and learn more about NHI.
She gave advice on how to continue their educational journey, noting, “Students seem to realize there will be noise, and they need to learn to ignore it. And I know sometimes it’s hurtful, it’s degrading, it’s demeaning, but they need to focus on the positives, they need to focus on the end goal. What’s your end goal? My end goal is to persevere, my end goal is to walk that stage, make my family proud, to become the first person to cross that stage and break barriers. Find that support system, find that network. We need somebody that will remind us that tomorrow, the sun will rise and it will be a better day.”
NHI functions as a support system for its members, as well as an example of what happens when collaboration and motivation combine to face issues that today’s leaders cannot solve. LDZ especially gives participants the opportunity to recognize their own potential and realize that they can always lean on each other in times of hardship.
David Zeff, a STEM coach at St. Mary’s, was impressed with the students, pointing out the unique impact of NHI. He observed that it’s not just a high school summer camp, but rather a program that can create a foundation for a strong college career. As a peer mentor coach for Latino students, he knows the importance of programs like NHI, and recognized in his own experience as a mentor, what Latino students need.
“Motivation is one of the biggest factors in completing goals, in completing anything in life. But just knowing that if you’re vulnerable and they’re listening to you, and you’re having great and genuine dialogue, you’re going to get them to a place where they start to trust you. And if they start to trust you and what you are doing, you’re building that community.”
The students were tasked to create a legacy, and by the end of the week, that legacy was defined by more than just the bills or the elected officials, but rather by cultivating a new and different generation of leaders.
Yarselyn Flores, from Challenge Early College High School in Houston, ran for Governor and lost, but then became Speaker of the House. Speaking on how her definition of leadership has changed over the course of the week, she noted, “I remember before, I used to think a leader was a person that got elected, sort of looked over other people. And I realized, it isn’t sitting there and just monitoring. It’s actually being involved, it’s actually making sure that the people that surround you feel motivated to speak. A leader needs to make sure that when they step down, or when they move on, they have inspired someone to continue on with their vision.”
As the Texas LDZ ended, many students left with tears in their eyes. The emotional highs and lows of this program created more than just a bond between students; it set apart a new generation of leaders, one that will continue on the visions created from this week.
By the end of the week, the top elected officials were better able to articulate their views on leadership:
Elected officials at the 2019 Texas LDZ included:
Governor: Victor Meza, Coronado High School, El Paso, Texas
Lt. Governor: Ava Dickson, Regents School of Austin, Austin, Texas
Speaker of the House: Yarselyn Flores, Challenge Early College High School, Houston, Texas
Chief Justice: Tony Espinoza; Los Fresnos United High School, Los Fresnos, Texas
Justices: Roberto Aguilar, Prepa Tec Santa Catarina, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon; Sonny Aldaco, Escuela Sierra Nevada Interlomas, Huixquilucan, Cuidad de México; Lennon Aragon, Westwood High School, Austin, Texas; Minji Kim, IB at Lamar Academy, McAllen, Texas; Roberto Osnaya,Escuela Sierra Nevada Interlomas, Huixquilucan, Cuidad de México; Andrew Ponce, Central Catholic High School, San Antonio, Texas; Sofia Rodriguez: IB at Lamar Academy, Alton, Texas; Natasha Flores, Central High School, San Angelo, Texas.