High school students from across the country will experience the intricacies of government, form a legislature and create resolutions that address problems in minority communities during the ninth annual Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session June 21-28. The session is sponsored by Colorado State University and the National Hispanic Institute.
The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session is an eight-day mock legislative sessions to enhance high school sophomores and juniors by building public speaking and organizational management skills and allowing students to honestly discuss views on cultural issues.
"For students not very in tune with their culture, it opens their minds to looking at themselves in a more positive way," said Varo Maldonado, conference coordinator and assistant director of admissions at the university. "For some, this is the first time they are in an environment where they are the majority. It is a very positive and challenging opportunity for students to display their talents."
The National Hispanic Institute co-hosts a total of five Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Sessions with Colorado State, University of New Mexico, University of Chicago, Southwestern University and Pomona College.
Most of the students attending the Colorado State Lorenzo de Zavala session are from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas with a few students attending from California, Florida, New York, Nebraska and Wyoming.
Before arriving, the students must make a resolution, or a formalized personal belief of a problem they perceive in the Latino community. At the session, students present their resolutions along with proposed solutions to a mock legislature for approval. Each resolution must be adapted to Colorado and may not be a national resolution.
Past topics include high school drop-out rates, bilingual education or lack of support of education, immigration, problems associated with gangs and teenage pregnancy.
The program encourages students to recognize and develop leadership skills they didn’t know they had which in turn builds self-confidence, said Maldonado. Everyone must take an active role in the session.
Students also form a mock government through a formal campaign complete with campaign speeches and elections. Students are elected to the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, supreme court justices, senators and trial lawyers. The government hears all the resolutions and votes on each of them.
Passing resolutions during legislative sessions is the hard part, said Maldonado. Each student must research the pros and cons of their resolution and obtain information to support it in their presentation to the legislature.
The presentation of resolutions to the mock legislature must follow parliamentary procedure. Students take a crash course in parliamentary procedure from a 1994 Lorenzo de Zavala alumna playing the role of the secretary of state.
"The secretary of state is a prestigious role in that not everyone can do it," said Maldonado. "They must have the talent and leadership skills to work with 140 students."
This year, the secretary of state is Colorado State junior, Veronica Sidas. Sidas, the first secretary of state from Colorado State, served as the secretary of state at both the Colorado and California sessions of Lorenzo de Zavala last year.
Her role is to serve as the primary educator of the program. She prepares students for the mock legislature while encouraging them to challenge authority to make changes.
Participants in previous sessions said Lorenzo de Zavala sharpened their focus and made them realize the importance of skill and talent to advance the quality of life in the Latino community as well as all of society. More than 98 percent of Lorenzo de Zavala participants enroll in college.
Fifty colleges will be present at a college fair at the conclusion of the session for participants and their parents to consider and realize the future opportunities available to them.
The program was first held at Colorado State in 1990. "We saw it as a source of recruiting academically excellent students to Colorado State," Maldonado said. "We also embraced the vision of the National Hispanic Institute and believe in what they are doing with our young people."
The National Hispanic Institute helps to create future leadership within the Latino community by exposing students to problems and issues of the community and encouraging them to take a more active role in addressing and solving them.
For more information, contact Maldonado at (970) 491-6311.