Ernesto Nieto, Featured
Why We Use Immersive-Disruptive Learning
This article is by NHI president and founder Ernesto Nieto.
After our first statewide Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session in 1983, we started to receive personal notes, letters, and even telephone calls from parents wanting to know what we done to their children in a matter of eight days being with us.
Almost always, the conversations we held had to do with changes in their children’s attitudes. Parents expressed surprise at the amount of focus they were dedicating to their grades, as well as the sense of cooperation they were demonstrating at home, often choosing to be with parents on weekends instead of their friends. As one parent once put it, “What’s the magic?”
I think about this question even today – 36 years after launching NHI, with more than $25 million that parents and sponsors invested in student tuitions to date, and with several generations of leaders who have taken the teachings of NHI and utilized them for the greater good of the Latino community both here and abroad.
We knew, when we first started creating our programs, that there were several conditions we needed to address:
We knew, first of all, that Latinos in general come from backgrounds of social rejection and diminished aspirations.
We knew that the professional classes of the Latino community were critically thin.
We also recognized that while more Latinos were going to college and receiving degrees, those efforts was mostly focused on community college and regional four year institutions.
In having worked with older professionals for the first two years of NHI’s existence, we were also aware of the frustration and anger with career Latino employees for not being able to move beyond specialist roles in government and private sector life that paid generally well, but were not jobs of policy authority.
Finally, we knew that the idea of leadership for many young Latinos was aimed at moving upward in their careers and professions, focused on themselves and their companies or organizations rather than the entire community. For a good number of them, leadership meant leaving or exiting their communities in order to “make it.”
So, when we first started working with students, we knew we had to alter mindsets and expectations of young people who were mostly focused on college and careers. We’ve created three education programs that use an immersive-disruptive approach – the answer to the question put to us so many years ago, “Where’s the magic?”
Our programs do more than teach students to be better public speakers, practice public policy, and prepare for college. Our programs equip young people with the skills and competencies they need to critically assess their operating beliefs and outlooks, to make strategic changes in the mental models they use to make critical decisions about themselves, and to develop the insight and capacities to change themselves from within.
This enables them to exercise greater control over the outcomes they most desire in furthering their personal development, their readiness to lead healthy economic social and economic lives, and capacities to play key roles as leaders in the communities where they live.
It’s no longer sufficient in our world to have a high school diploma or a college degree, especially for those who aspire to lead their communities. We have programs that teach cultural identity, confidence, perspective, and the willingness to break out of one’s own comfort zone. And to do that, we can’t settle for offering the type of teaching students encounter in school.
The immersive-disruptive approach is not only different, it makes a difference in our students’ lives, which is why so many of our alumni find the “magic” we offer to be life-changing, essential, and indispensable.