Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Session at Colorado State University Promotes Dialogue, Awareness, Resolution on Cultural Issues

Latino high-school students from around the country will have a week to experience the complex world of government when they participate in the 10th annual Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session June 20-27. The session is sponsored by Colorado State University and the National Hispanic Institute.

The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session is a week-long conference where students engage in mock legislative and supreme court sessions exploring critical issues affecting the Latino community today. The event gives high school sophomores and juniors a better understanding of government and a chance to improve their skills in public speaking, organizational management and constituency-building.

This year, the students will also visit the Capitol in Denver and conduct most of their sessions in the House and Senate Chambers and meeting some of Colorado’s legislators.

"These students are from different regions and different backgrounds, but they share the quality that they are all exceptional," said Varo Maldonado, conference coordinator and assistant director of admissions at the university. "This is a challenging, eye-opening learning experience for all participants. Everyone gains from this event–including the counselors."

The National Hispanic Institute co-hosts five LDZ Youth Legislative Sessions in collaboration with Colorado State, DePaul University in Chicago, the University of New Mexico, Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, and Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Students participating at Colorado State come from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California with a few from other regions.

Admission to the program is competitive and rigorous. To apply, a student must submit a formal application for review certifying that he/she is in the upper 25 percent of their high school class with a 3.2 grade-point average or above, is enrolled in a college bound high-school graduation plan and is taking advanced or honors studies.

At the session, all students must file for office such as governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, senatorial districts or one of nine supreme court justice positions. They make speeches before the delegation and work to build their constituencies while others are appointed lawyers and argue before the youth court of peers. Each student must identify an issue facing the Latino community, prepare a resolution, then hear it argued on the House and Senate floors and in the committees.

More than 98 percent of Lorenzo de Zavala participants go on to college and LDZ alumni enrolled in college are encouraged to return to volunteer as mentors and senior counselors for the legislative session.

Named after the first vice president of the Republic of Texas, the Lorenzo de Zavala program began in 1983 and was first held at Colorado State in 1990. "We saw it as a source of recruiting academically advanced students at Colorado State," said Maldonado. "We also embrace the vision of the National Hispanic Institute in creating opportunities for leadership development in our youth."

The National Hispanic Institute was founded in 1979 by Ernesto Nieto, who still is president. It is the only leadership training institute in the nation that provides its young members with a means for long-term training and development in Latino community affairs. Students may start during their freshman year in high school and remain involved with the NHI through college and into adult professional life. The NHI offers several programs to help Latino youth build their community and their leadership skills.