Celebración finalists “moving NHI forward 10 years” with video presentations
NHI founder and president Ernesto Nieto had high praise for this year’s Celebración finalists — at the conclusion of this year’s first-of-its-kind competition at the San Marcos Conference Center in San Marcos, Texas, he said the competitors displayed vision and talent that is “moving NHI forward 10 years.”
For the first time ever, this year’s Celebración put an understanding of social media and video editing know-how front and center. The teams, asked to focus on what kind of branding they might create to inspire prospective NHI students, created one- to two-minute videos advancing a social media hashtag and containing messaging about NHI.
The students exhibited great creativity throughout the weekend, casting themselves in the videos, pulling in Nieto for cameos, finding soundtracks, and in the case of the Grand Champions—CWS division winners Team What’s Next—integrated archival footage from the earliest NHI summer programs into their video.
Faculty impressed with students’ abilities
Jennifer Perri, vice president at Creator Network at Univision, served as both a finals judge and a consultant to the students. As she told the San Marcos Daily Record for its coverage of the event, “I was so impressed and inspired by the imaginative and thought-provoking content the participants created. Clearly, we have very creative storytellers among us who are ready and able to lead.”
“Celebración 2017 provided an opportunity for high school members to hone in on the importance of articulating a clear message that is compelling, inspiring, and designed to mobilize people towards action or a common goal,” said Julio Cotto, NHI Senior Vice President, who was instrumental in assembling the faculty and synthesizing the curriculum design for this year’s program.
“The emphasis on social media and digital platform provided participants a new landscape to fully explore their ideas, creativity, and ability to collaborate,” he added. “In many ways, they played with the language of today and tomorrow. This year, Education Directors had a larger role in coaching, mentoring, and engaging in intense thought and debate over their ideas. Students were self-directing and self-operational in more ways than I have seen in the past. I think they got a glimpse of how powerful their generation’s avenues for communication are, and how they can be maximized for much more than sharing personal photos and someone else’s content. At Celebración, NHI members charted out the first kernels of content for the future with a keen grip and deep knowledge of the power tools of tomorrow.”
Winning team credits their connectedness
Members of the Celebración finalists team who won the whole event exhibited incredible enthusiasm in their victory—for each other, for their Celebración experience, for NHI as an institution, and for how they might take that energy into the next phase of their lives as college students.
“We’re really excited,” said Francisco Vielma of Oratory Atheneum in Pharr, Texas. “We’ve known each other for the past three years. It’s a breathtaking moment. It’s our last program as participants, and we’re looking forward to staying involved in NHI and coming back as interns.”
Gina Saenz, from Coronado High School in El Paso, noted, “These people are some of the most talented and amazing people I’ve ever met. I’m so blessed to have gotten to meet them and work with them for years on end.”
Tatyana Brown, from the School for Talented and Gifted in Garland, Texas, similarly praised the talent present on the team. “The people in this circle all run their own regions, their own cities. We get together every year and we run the country. We love it so much, and it’s all culminated with this.
Daniel Guerra from Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, also acknowledging Celebracion 2017 as a culmination of a journey spanning the team’s high school years, added, “It’s amazing to see what inseparable bonds we’ve been able to create. No matter where we met each other, we always loved each other, and we made sure that our work here meant something.”
Guerra’s Central Catholic classmate, Gabriel Garcia, observed, “We’re talking about issues that are going to face this country and this organization 40, 50, 60 years in the future. To be able to articulate those ideas—I could have only done this here and with these people, and I’m just so grateful for those opportunities.”
Maya Návar, of Radford High School in El Paso, saw her participation in Celebracion in light of the extraordinary events of 2017. “In the midst of so much political and social turmoil, the National Hispanic Institute and this group of individuals is proof that things are going to be okay, and that we do have the ability to progress. There’s so much hope.”
“We talked about the future of NHI,” said Carlos de la Torre, from Argo Community High School in Summit, Ill. “But the thing is, I know this group is going to dictate the future of NHI and of the country, of where we’re going to lead.”
“We’ve already got a business plan together,” Brown added.
It’s clear from their enthusiasm that their journey with NHI won’t end with Celebracion. Team member Melissa Vazquez, from Early Challenge High School in Houston, perhaps summed it up best when she simply said of NHI, “This is my home. I grew up with these people. I can’t wait to do more with them in the future. I’m sure that we can create a lot more.”
Other finals videos are available to view on the NHITV YouTube channel; including the following:
Team Third Reality
Writers of Tomorrow
Celebracion 2017 was sponsored in part by State Farm, DishLATINO, Union Pacific, Winston & Strawn LLP, and the Roy G. Kerr Foundation.