Latino High School Students to Legislate Action at Colorado State University

High achieving Latino students will have a week to debate issues and experience the complex world of government when they participate in the National Hispanic Institute’s 15th Annual Colorado Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session June 20-27.  

The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session, which is sponsored by and held on the Colorado State University campus, is a weeklong conference where students engage in a mock legislative process and judicial hearings that examine the challenges Hispanic communities face. The event gives high school sophomores and juniors a better understanding of community equity building and a chance to improve their skills in public speaking, organizational management and constituency building. Students representing the states of Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, California, Arizona and Massachusetts will attend.

"This session challenges students to examine their cultural ties and understanding of the Latino community and encourages them to become involved," 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 their future and that of the Latino community by having a better understanding of the political system."

The weeklong session features activities that include a general convention, senate and Supreme Court speeches, legislative sessions, Supreme Court trials and committee hearings.  Students will campaign for elected positions such as governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, senators, attorneys or one of nine Supreme Court justice positions. Candidates will make speeches before the delegation and work to build their constituencies. Each student must identify issues facing the Latino community and propose resolutions to address them. All resolutions must meet community equity model requirements to ensure that the problems will be addressed with long-term solutions.  

Students present and debate the merits of their resolutions before their peers and strive to have their ideas enacted into law.

Colorado State and the National Hispanic Institute have co-hosted this event since 1990. To qualify, students must have a 3.2 grade-point average or above and must be enrolled in a college-bound high school curriculum.

Ernesto Nieto, executive director of the National Hispanic Institute, founded the non-profit organization in 1979 as a way to encourage young Latino students to enhance their leadership abilities and actively participate in the Latino community.

Students interested in participating in the 2005 conference can contact Maldonado at (970) 491-6311.