Hispanic high school students from around the country will have a week to debate issues and experience the complex world of government when they participate in the 13th annual Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session June 16-23. The sponsors of this year’s session are Colorado State University and the National Hispanic Institute.
The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session, held on the Colorado State campus, is a weeklong conference where students engage in mock legislative and supreme court sessions that examine the challenges Hispanic communities must confront. Students from 10 states, including Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona will attend. 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 session challenges students to examine their own cultural beliefs and encourages them to become involved in their communities," said Varo Maldonado, conference coordinator and assistant director of admissions at Colorado State. "All participants emerge with a new understanding of how they can shape the future by working within the political system."
The weeklong session features activities including mock general conventions; senate and supreme court speeches; legislative sessions; supreme court trials; and committee hearings. 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, and then hear it argued on the house and senate floors and in the committees.
The National Hispanic Institute based in Maxwell, Texas, co-hosts four other Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Sessions in the states of New Mexico, Texas, California, and Illinois. The first conference was hosted by Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas in 1983 honoring Lorenzo De Zavala, the first vice president of the Republic of Texas. Colorado State has embraced the National Hispanic Institute vision of developing future leaders of our community since 1990 when the university first hosted Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Session.
Admission to the program is competitive and rigorous. To apply, a student must have a 3.2 grade-point average or above and must be enrolled in a college bound high school graduation plan that includes advanced or honors studies. More than 98 percent of Lorenzo de Zavala participants go on to college.
The established president Ernesto Nieto founded the National Hispanic Institute in 1979. 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 National Hispanic Institute through college and into adult professional life. The National Hispanic Institute offers several programs to help Latino youth build their community and their leadership skills.