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NHI launches digital learning experiences to meet challenges of 2020

Great Debate student in front of presentation screen
Posted: April 29, 2020 at 4:28 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Every year since 1984, the National Hispanic Institute (NHI) has run summer programs for high school students. Its board decided to shutter its on-campus summer programs in an April 1 emergency meeting, making NHI among the first educational nonprofit organizations to respond to the coronavirus pandemic with appropriate caution. 

But thanks to a quick pivot and diligent, ongoing work from staff members, board members and volunteers, NHI will be able to keep its 35-plus years of summer programs going for top Latino high school students throughout the Americas. The launch of NHI’s digital learning experiences, now underway, will deliver two of its three summer leadership programs online, and will provide an online leadership symposium to prepare students for a third program that has its sessions postponed to 2021.

NHI’s Great Debate program, for students between their freshman and sophomore years of high school, has been transformed into the GDx, teaching effective digital communication through an online platform. The Collegiate World Series program, a combination college admission preparatory program and introduction to inquiry-based learning, will be offered as the CWSx – a program offered digitally this summer, and as soon as conditions are safe, in-person for its second half and graduation ceremony.

And while NHI determined its flagship Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session needed to remain an in-person experience, it’s introducing the NHI Summer Symposium for LDZers, engaging students with a series of online discussions, college prep panels, and social and cultural interactions with Latino leaders as those students prepare for a live LDZ experience next summer. 

The online programs are designed to engage the more than 2,000 students in the U.S,, Mexico, Panama, the Dominican Republic and throughout the Americas who committed to participate in NHI’s 2020 summer programs. It’s also critical to NHI’s future to keep its programs going; it relies upon student tuition for a significant portion of its annual budget, maintaining a position of self-sufficiency rather than a reliance on government grants. 

“While we wish we could see each other on-campus this summer, we are excited to see everyone online and watch them grow, learn, and make new friends,” said Nicole Nieto, Executive Vice President for NHI. “We want to make sure we are addressing important developmental stages of each student’s leadership journey in a timely manner. That’s why we’ve embarked on this online initiative – so we don’t miss the opportunity to develop fundamental skills when they’re most ready for it. The time is now, and we simply can’t put it off!” 

While the shift to online programming takes away some important elements of NHI’s approach to leadership training — notably, an NHI program provides a number of students with their first-ever stay on a university campus — it also includes some advantages, like an increased number of contact hours and the ability to extend a program beyond the four to eight days of a live NHI experience.  

Nieto noted, “The NHI digital learning experience is designed to help them build their skills in a culturally supportive environment. They will be taking some of their first crucial steps toward leading the communities they’re committed to, and we enjoy building platforms for them to develop themselves as future leaders.” 

The new GDx program, in particular, has been established to meet the moment. The great exchange of ideas will still be the heart of its curriculum, and the ability to deliver concepts through public speaking will be further enhanced by the students’ use of social media campaigns, video editing, and podcast production as part of an overall mission to become better communicators online as well as in person. 

“The leaders of tomorrow will need to be able to do much more than move a crowd with a microphone,” said Julio Cotto, NHI’s Senior Vice President, who is spearheading NHI’s conversion to digital education. “In order to mobilize communities and frame a new social narrative for Latinos and the Americas, leaders will have to maximize the mediums, styles, and manner in which they communicate. Now, a speech and a debate must have visual elements, a social media virability, and the impact that can engage the public in seconds.” 

Even though NHI’s immediate focus is on bringing its existing summer commitments into introductory classes happening now, it is also looking to add academically solid high school students looking to make leadership education part of their summer. To apply and become part of the inaugural class of digital learning experience students, visit https://www.nationalhispanicinstitute.org/apply/summer2020/

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