• Donald Tetto

Participants will spend the first few days of the program on the Southwestern campus learning how state government works and electing students who will serve in actual government roles. They will then travel to Austin to hold a mock legislative session in the state capitol and discuss how they would tackle current issues such as immigration. The program will conclude with a Supreme Court trial on July 21.

Participants also will have the opportunity to visit a college fair on July 22 that is expected to be attended by representatives of more than 25 of the country’s top colleges and universities.

This is the 21st year that Southwestern University has hosted the LDZ program, which is designed to develop future leaders for the Latino community. The program is named after the governor of the state of Mexico in 1827, who became the first vice president of the Republic of Texas in 1836. In addition to Southwestern, the LDZ program is offered at universities in Colorado, Illinois, New York and Monterrey, Mexico.

The LDZ program and the National Hispanic Institute were founded by Ernesto Nieto, a 1964 Southwestern University graduate.

“In order for the U.S. Latino community to participate more fully in the American experience, it must expand the reservoir of talent from which it can select future leaders,” Nieto said. “Our goal is to cultivate and train our nation’s top Latino high school youth. The earlier we can help these students understand community engagement, the better our country will be.”

Many Texas LDZ participants have gone on to attend Southwestern. Among these is Anita Fernandez ’06, who now serves as one of six regional directors for the National Hispanic Institute, and has helped organize this year’s Texas LDZ program.

“LDZ is a life-changing experience,” said Fernandez, who attended the program in 2000 and has been involved with it ever since. “It has allowed me to actively participate in a community that is very dear to me.”

Fernandez said participating in the LDZ program inspired her to create her own independent studies major in Latin American Studies at Southwestern. “The institute allows students the opportunity to create their own visions for their Latino community,” she said.

For more information on LDZ or the National Hispanic Institute, visit www.nhi-net.org/.