Las Vegas, New Mexico – High School students from Northern New Mexico developed leadership skills at a National Hispanic Institute training program in Colorado, thanks to Highlands University.
The ten high-achieving students participated in the eight-day NHI Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session at Colorado State University – Fort Collins.
“This training program is an investment in the future leaders of our state,” said Highlands Dean of Students Fidel Trujillo, who led the cohort of students. “The idea is for these students to serve as junior counselors next summer when Highlands hopes to host a similar leadership training program for 150 students. We want to bring the best and the brightest high school students to our campus.”
Trujillo said one of the best things about the NHI curriculum is that it doesn’t approach leadership from a deficit model, but instead builds on strengths the youth possess, like intelligence, creativity and critical thinking skills.
Ambrozia Medina, an 18-year-old senior from Mora High School, participated in the leadership training.
“This training was life-changing for me because I learned so much about my own Hispanic culture and how the legislative process works,” Medina said. “I am more outspoken now about my ideas and opinions, and more confident in voicing them. I learned how to influence other Hispanic youth to become leaders in their own communities.”
Medina, who will be the first in her family to attend college, said another valuable aspect of the leadership training was meeting other students who share the same kind of goals, such as earning a college degree and being successful in a professional career.
Trujillo said he knows first-hand how valuable the NHI Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session is because of his own experience with the training in 1993, when he was a Mora High School junior.
“I am a first-generation college student and the NHI leadership program was my first experience on a college campus. I could see myself thriving in that environment. This is what we want to provide for students: a sense of belonging and a sense of possibilities,” said Trujillo, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Highlands and a Ph.D. in education from the University of New Mexico.
Other Northern New Mexico juniors and seniors who participated in the National Hispanic Institute leadership training in Colorado include Kelsey García, Miguel Martínez, and Victoria Valdez of Las Vegas; Alanie Rael of Pecos; Luke García, Monique Olivas, and Jose Reyes of Santa Fe; Anicia Roybal of Española; and Santiago Laumbach of Mora.
“To see these students blossom in their leadership ability was remarkable and truly rewarding,” Trujillo said.
Highlands paid for the 10 students’ tuition for the conference, as well as travel and lodging in a CSU residence hall.