More than 600 Latino high school students from North and Central America are in Dallas for the annual meeting of the National Hispanic Institute. The organization was created to foster future Hispanic leaders, like A.C. Gonazlez, the Dallas city manager and an Institute alum. Meet some of the next generation.
These kids are the cream of this organization’s crop, culled from 3,000 students who attended summer National Hispanic Institute programs in South Texas. Here, they’ll debate and hold mock trials.
Bianca Mujica from McAllen heard about the institute from her cousin.
“He recruited me. He said you’re going to go this thing. So I kind of had no choice,” Bianca said. “And I almost dropped out about halfway through it because I didn’t like the people I was with.”
But then Bianca started competing and fell in love with the organization.
“It’s so different from school,” Bianca says. “There’s not a set structure. People tell you OK do this, but they don’t tell you how to do it. So you have to figure it out on your own. And I like that. I feel like I’m an independent person, so being given the freedom to do things the way I want to do them was liberating.”
More than 90 percent of the students involved with the National Hispanic Institute will not only attend college, but graduate. Alejandro Vohorquez, a 16-year-old junior from Mexico wants to study psychology. He remembers a past Institute exercise on the psychology of prejudice.
“Let’s say you have some sort of accounting issue,” Alejandro says. “You have an Asian, a Latino and an African-American.”
No, that's not a setup for a joke. Alejandro says most kids decided the Asian was the one likely to tackle the accounting problem. Then they were asked who would fix a plumbing leak. Most kids picked the Latino.
“There’s this stereotypical image of Latinos as laborers,” Alejandro says. “They’re not entrepreneurs. They’re not visionaries, which is completely the opposite. That’s not the case.”
These 600 teenage visionaries are meeting in the Dallas Convention Center and Omni Hotel until Sunday.