Why you should contribute to “Change a Life”
This article is by Ernesto Nieto, Founder and President of NHI.
It’s not that often that we actually get to witness the impact that a small contribution has on a young person. We might even ask, upon making a donation to an organization, “Will it really make a difference?”
Our Change a Life Leadership Project was designed in response to that question that so often goes unanswered.
At National Hispanic Institute, we have a number of students each year who qualify for admission, but come from working families that don’t command a lot of resources. We’ve been fortunate to have some schools get involved in helping students to attend our programs, having seen the transformational impact these programs have. Students return from NHI getting even better grades, more involved in extracurricular activities, and more confident. They’re more focused on school and on their futures. Their teachers notice, their counselors notice, and as we know from the letters and calls we receive, their parents notice.
NHI gets all kinds of participants who find their ways to programs, be in by plane, Greyhound bus, or the entire family going on a road trip to make sure students arrive at a program ready to learn and grow.
Throughout our 36 years, no NHI participant has ever been asked about their personal family circumstances or financial conditions. Everyone is given the same respect, the same appreciation for attending, and the same chances to succeed. From our first pilot programs, Gloria and I made it a policy never to poke into young people’s lives, instead focusing on their many assets and talents, attributes that made them feel special. For the most part, not even the staff know except when a participant has special needs that demand attention or special assistance. We hope that NHI, beyond our years, will never abandon that practice.
And yet, we do sometimes become aware of students who need financial assistance to help them get to our programs.
One of our more important goals as an organization is engaging young people in meaningful learning experiences that have a transformational and lifetime impact on their outlooks, social perspectives, and identities. We want them to recognize and build on their assets and ways of changing themselves rather than concentrate on their problems. We want them envision themselves as playing important roles in influencing the lives of others. Mostly, we want them to appreciate and value being part of a hemispheric community of 23 countries, rich in their cultural traditions, and capable of sitting at the tables of important community discussions.
Not every child has the opportunity to be part of these experiences, mostly due to not having sufficient access to the money required to attend. There are always young people whose family circumstances put them outside the reach of learning opportunities such as those provided by the National Hispanic Institute. We don’t want to limit these opportunities to students from well-off families and students who receive school support. We also want to reach young people from rural communities, from single-parent households, and from inner-city communities.
This means turning to people who understand: former participants who today enjoy better lives because they took on the challenge of changing their lives and are succeeding. Our view of the Change a Life Leadership Program that it’s about giving forward rather than giving back.
Our goal this year is to raise $40,000, and we’re already halfway there. That allows us to bring an additional 200 students into NHI programs. We don’t involve the government, foundations, or corporations in these efforts; we instead turn to those who know us best and understand why our work is so important. We look to our alumni, their parents, and individuals who respect the work we’re doing.
All it takes is a conscious will to act and the realization that somewhere along the line, someone quietly acted to help you. While $40,000 isn’t a large amount when weighed in dollars, it’s huge when measured by the human potential that will come as a result, 200 kids learning about their human potential.
For those who wish to be part of this year’s efforts, please go to the donate page on our website to contribute. Should you run across any technical problems, please call our office at 512.357.6137, where someone will be able to help you.