Latinx empowerment promoted through CSU youth legislative program

Audrey Weiss

Colorado State University welcomes Latinx students each summer as part of the Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Session, with the hope the program will pique their interest in – and potential future attendance to – CSU. 

As of Fall 2017, almost 12 percent of Colorado State University students identified as Hispanic or Latino, according to data from the Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness.

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The LDZ program welcomes Latinx students for eight days during the summer. David Ruybal, a sophomore agricultural business major, and Luis Loya, a sophomore human development and family studies major, were two of those students, in 2014 and 2015, respectively. 

Ruybal has worked as a councilor at the Colorado LDZ program every summer since 2014.

“It’s a very complex program,” Ruybal said. “You learn Robert’s Rules of Order, governmental process and … you actually set up your own government.”

Loya’s plans after college included enlisting in the Marine Corps., but said his experience as a junior councilor for the LDZ summer program in 2016 changed his perspective.

“I really do think that it helps students in many areas in life,” Loya said. “After that program, something kind of switched in me … and I discovered another passion of mine at that program, specifically empowering youth.”

Ruybal said his school councilor came to him with information about the program, then the NHI called him and expressed interest in him as an attendee. Ruybal said he was surprised by how many people he knew who had participated in the program, considering he was the first student from his school to attend in over 10 years.

Ruybal said he has been able to apply the leadership skills he acquired at the program in several ways.

“It helped me to have a bigger voice, in my day-to-day life,” Ruybal said. “Before, I’d never done any public speaking, and (that’s) a really big part of the program. It’s taught me to be more social and to say what I think is best and implement it.”

Loya said he loved the program and that the experience at LDZ expanded his perspective of being a leader from his background and his community and taught him more about his community itself.

In addition, Loya said he found more opportunity because of his involvement with the program.

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“We teach them lots of ways that they can really support themselves, not only for the program, but for other things in their life,” Jaime-Lujan said. 

Connie Jaime-Lujan, associate director for university access and success, said CSU first established the LDZ program through the National Hispanic Institute in 1989.

There are six universities identified as NHIs, both nationally and internationally. CSU is one of those six.

The National Hispanic Institute’s University of the Year was awarded to CSU in 2014, because CSU has a long-standing history of hosting the LDZ program. 

 

“We had a CSU admissions counselor attend one of the NHI’s sessions for (the) Lorenzo De Zavala Youth Legislative Session students, and he was amazed by the quality of the students,” Jaime-Lujan said. “We’ve been really fortunate to be one of those sites since 1989.”

We teach them lots of ways that they can really support themselves, not only for the program, but for other things in their life.” Connie Jaime-Lujan, associate director for university access and success

Jaime-Lujan said the program itself is focused on developing strong leadership skills and promoting empowerment.

“The students do learn amazing leadership skills and public speaking skills,” Jaime-Lujan said. “And (they learn) about the culture and about themselves. They leave feeling really empowered.”

 

While there is currently not an LDZ alumni program available on campus, both Loya and Ruybal said that students are working to establish a collegiate leadership network on campus. 

Loya and Ruybal said they worked closely with the NHI in 2017 to determine the next steps in creating the network.

“Now that we have a stronger presence…we’re able to join forces and make something of it,” Loya said.

Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Audkward.