National Hispanic Institute’s LDZ conference brings future leaders to CSU

This year at the Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session (LDZ), held at CSU on June 19, 1,350 high school students from across the nation gained a better understanding of legislative environments and how to successfully manage, navigate and create organizations.

Students who participate in LDZ, sponsored by the National Hispanic Institute, are empowered to make a difference in their community by becoming leaders. They also gain more of an understanding of the systems of the U.S. government.

LDZ Photo 2
Participants voted to pass a proposal to expand NHI to include sessions focused on medicine, engineering and business management.

‘Collective success’

Herman Shelton, executive director of the CSU Access Center, spoke to the participants at the opening ceremony and left them with encouraging words to start off the conference. “I firmly believe that when we shift from a perspective of ‘me’ to ‘we,’ it becomes easier to understand and accept the sacrifices that we must make for our collective success,” he said.

Students voted to pass a proposal that would “expand NHI to include sessions focused on medicine, engineering, and business management.” The proposal was written by Cierra Ruybal, who served as the distinguished attorney for the conference. The proposals suggested were based on the participants’ beliefs.

Voicing opinions

The core concepts for the conference involved immigration, education and a sense of equality for all individuals living in the United States. Students learned how to actively take part in conversations that involved those topics and to voice their opinions on issues that matter to them and their communities.

Students going over notes for LDZ legislative session
Students going over notes for LDZ legislative session.

Cody Huffman of Texas State University was a participant in the conference two years ago. “After participating in LDZ I truly believed that I had a voice, and my voice mattered not only here at the conference, but in my community as well,” he said.

He returned to the conference this year as a senior counselor, and said he keeps coming back because he has “gained friends that have become family.”

Students put forth their ideas and their voices to collectively improve their communities through legislative efforts at the conference. “This conference has repeatedly shown me that I should never be satisfied, and that you should keep challenging yourself in every situation,” Huffman said.

The Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Session was first held at the Texas Capitol over two days in 1982. By 1990, the program had expanded to the current eight-day program in three states. Today, the program is held at six sites in five states and in Panama. The program at Colorado State University has been co-sponsored by CSU and the National Hispanic Institute since 1989 and is the longest partnership in program history.

Colorado State University was named University of the Year by NHI in 2015, thanks to this long-standing relationship.