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National Hispanic Institute – Building Positive Leaders

National Hispanic Institute

“When we talk about Hispanic leadership, we don’t mean political involvement, and we don’t mean civil rights advocacy in an angry, deficiency approach. Ideally, we want intellectual leaders. We want young thinkers. We want to create an intellectual National Hispanic Institutedialogue – a conversation about the future.” – Associate Vice President for Advancement Julio Cotto of the National Hispanic Institute

Founded in 1979, the National Hispanic Institute helps prepare young people to dedicate themselves to excellence and take on leadership roles in shaping communities. The institute works for change through education and self-improvement. Institute members look for the brightest young people as they enter high school, then challenge them through high school and college to take part in shaping the world of tomorrow.

In the high schools, the institute contacts high school counselors, college advisers, and principals to identify candidates with proper GPA requirements to be considered for training. Although target students are from Hispanic families, the institute works with all students of all backgrounds, reaching them through direct recruitment and outreach to nomination from high schools to mail and Internet marketing.

National Hispanic InstituteAccording to Julio Cotto, “We rely heavily on volunteers. What makes our organization special is that so many of our alumni help to operate and promote our programs. Once the student goes through ninth grade, at 10th grade they’re deputized to find ninth graders to join the next year’s class. Eleventh graders go to their own experience, but they come back in the summer to volunteer. And it goes as far as to alumni who are in their 30s and 40s who through corporate volunteer programs take a week off in the summer to help us manage programs. Annually, we involve about 1,000 youths and about 500 alumni and parents who give of their time as well as their dollars.

“We will visit a minimum of 300 high schools and send out materials to about 3,000 students minimum. In the end, we will work with about 5,000 students through our summer program and some small regional programming that we do during the school year, mainly across Texas.”

National Hispanic Institute

The institute’s programs follow a developmental track. Cotto said, “We call it, ‘The Progressive Leadership Training Model.’ Ideally, we start off kids in ninth grade through a program that focuses on their communications skills – getting in front of people, speaking on a microphone, thinking on your feet, asking tough questions, responding to tough questions – really an intellectual ideas program.

“The next program, which is for 10th and 11th graders, is twice as long. In it, we start to broaden to include organizational development. How do they look at man-made systems – maneuver them, influence them, become part of them? We use the government as a model. They experience what it’s like to be in a decision-making role.

“In 11th grade, we start to prepare them for college and graduate studies by bringing in professionals from admissions to work with them.

National Hispanic Institute

“In the 12th grade program, we start to take them abroad and to talk about international leadership in different communities.

“Once they’re in college, we have an internship program.

“The goal for us is to engage a family forever. Thirty years into it, we’re now starting to see the children of former child participants. We’re starting to have financial support from alumni in their 40s to make this last for the future.”

The institute is not dependent upon outside funding, so outside support such as from Subaru of America Foundation is used to supplement existing initiatives, expand those initiatives, and strengthen programs that are already running. Cotto said, “Subaru is going to be a big player this year in helping to reach out to students who otherwise might not be able to take advantage of such an experience.”

National Hispanic Institute

For more about the National Hispanic Institute, go to