Participants demonstrated a strong passion to make a difference in the world through involvement in their local communities. The Latino Leadership Initiative Program brought 41 students from seven different schools in the United States to equip them with the necessary skills and tools to become influential Latino leaders in each of their communities.
Participants represented Miami Dade College; University of Massachusetts, Boston; University of California, Merced; University of Texas-Pan American; Loyola Marymount University of Los Angeles; and University of Houston. LLI provided each school an assigned mentor that currently attends Harvard or just graduated to guide them in their journey at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The Latino Leadership Initiative is a one-week, intensive summer program placed in the heart of the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). LLI was developed after gathering data showing an estimate that the Latino community will comprise more than 30% of the United States population by 2050. LLI decided to “toenhance the leadership capacity and understanding of a frame of students committed to serving the Latino community, help participants form a strong and durable bond among themselves and with other leaders; andto inspire participants to view their own possibilities for leadership and professional achievement as limitless” in order to form well-equipped Latino Leaders.
Dario Collado, Director of the LLI Program was the welcoming face to all participants; with a charismatic personality, he showed his love to all the students involved in this initiative. At the initial ceremony, Collado told his audience, “You all have been playing incredibly in the minor leagues. Welcome to the major leagues.”
At that moment, he exhorted a room full of 41 students hungry for knowledge to shine and demonstrate their unique traits that will allow them to become successful leaders.
One of the most memorable activities in the course was the “crafting of the Story self, Story of us, and Story of now,” where we had the opportunity to open up our hearts to the rest of the participants and share who we truly are and why we are so passionate for our projects. Having the ability to listen to each personal story evoked an instant connection among the participants.
Later, Professor Ganz asked everyone, “Why am I called to leadership?” Students started to reflect on such a profound question. Leadership is not an easy task he mentions, it is a process with multiple steps that require commitment, hard work and dedication.
Coming to the last days of the program, we continued with an Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking lecture by Walt Disney Director for Diversity Programs, Professor Efrain Fuentes. During the lecture, he directed us to learn how to perceive, reason, understand, and manage our emotions.
Each day was filled with unexpected events, but Thursday night, there was a Celebratory Dinner to thank all the sponsors that made the LLI possible.
To finalize the event, each of the schools presented their community service projects, individuals showed a strong passion in their projects. When presenting, UC Merced had a skit that illustrated the need of a reformation in the U.S. education system in this country.
Our last speaker was the first Mexican-American astronaut, Jose Hernandez, who was vivid example of perseverance. Hernandez came from typical migrant family that moved multiple times a year to follow the grape season. He proudly opened the story of his childhood talking about when he worked in the fields, and how he became mesmerized by the stars and dreamed about becoming an astronaut. Hernandez, a humble and sincere individual, encouraged us to do not eliminate ourselves, to never give up.
“No matter what age, this is a great experience,” said Ruben Enriquez, a freshman in high school from Laredo Texas. Eagerly, he said that as soon as he goes back to Texas, he would share this experience with all his family and friends. Vanessa Chambers from Miami College said, “I moved from being an observer to an actor.”
The 2011 LLI Participants enjoyed a pool of speakers who demonstrated stories of hard work, innovation, perseverance, and leadership. The numerous lectures and speakers brought knowledge from a variety of fields.
LLI Participants left not only with a one-year community service project, but also with the energy to share the skills they learned with the rest of the world in order to bring a new generation of Latino leaders.