Latino High School Students to Legislate Action at Colorado State University

High-achieving Latino students will debate issues and experience the complex world of government while participating in the National Hispanic Institute’s 19th Annual Colorado Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session June 22-29.

The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session, 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 faced in Hispanic communities. Students representing Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and the countries of Mexico and Panama will attend.

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.

"This experience challenges students to examine their cultural ties and understanding of the Latino community and inspires them to become involved," said Varo Maldonado, conference coordinator and associate 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 through 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 constituencies. Each student must identify issues facing the Latino community and address them with long-term solutions. Students present and debate the merits of their proposed solutions before their peers and strive to have their ideas passed into law.

Colorado State University and the National Hispanic Institute have co-hosted this event since 1990. To qualify, students must have 3.2 grade-point averages 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 next year’s conference may contact Varo Maldonado in the Office of Admissions at Colorado State at (970) 491-6311.