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Preparing for the 2019 Texas Great Debate: San Antonio

San Antonio NHI students, here with panelists Ixchell Gonzalez, Rosie Castro, and Ana Sandoval, are preparing for the Texas Great Debate taking place June 6-9 at Austin College. San Antonio NHI students, here with panelists Ixchell Gonzalez, Rosie Castro, and Ana Sandoval, are preparing for the Texas Great Debate taking place June 6-9 at Austin College.
Posted: May 31, 2019 at 12:27 pm   /   by   /   comments (0) invited PAs from across Texas to share their stories preparing for the upcoming 2019 Texas Great Debate, taking place June 6-9 at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Lillian Cervantes, a UTSA student and a college trainer with NHI@SA, writes about the San Antonio team’s experience.

With only one week until the 2019 Texas Great Debate at Austin College, the NHI at San Antonio participants are excited and ready to compete! Since mid-January, participants in all four categories have been working hard to develop both their public speaking and leadership skills in preparation for the 2019 Texas Great Debate. Participants been preparing hard for competition, and they have also spent quality time creating long lasting relationships with their NHI at San Antonio familia.

Roger Flores, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School and a member of the Mock Trial team, describes this experience by explaining, “The bond I have created with my Great Debate team has helped me grow as a leader. With the skills I have learned here at NHI, I am able to lead with more confidence, and this helps me get what I need to say out effectively.”

Over the past few months, as we have gotten closer to competition, participants of the NHI@SA team have come together every weekend to work with their categories, practice rounds, and bond with their teammates. Along with training, we make sure to incorporate our own San Antonio community leaders to our curriculum, giving insight from their experiences as activists, educators, and elected officials. Taching Community Equity Building, and having these members of our community speak on a panel to all our participants annually, are key to what the NHI@SA experience truly is.

Part of our preparation for the Great Debate is also cultivating a sense of familia and unity. We are able to emphasize this by actively pushing the Great Debaters to research and learn more about their parents and families, what they do, their passions, and how all of these things drive our community.  The bond that the team has formed over the past six months has come through learning and growing together.

Esteban Serrano, a student at Central Catholic High School and witness on the Mock Trial team, describes how the bond he’s built with his team has helped him develop his skills for competition, noting, “Mock Trial creates an atmosphere of diversity and positivity, and has taught me to adapt to different things. The bond between my high school staff has developed tremendously: How they work, what competition means to them, and what their work means to them. The team has welcomed me with open arms and are constantly pushing me to break new barriers and expectations and set new standards.”

A crucial part of the NHI@SA leadership structure is that our region is in large part run by High School Staff who have all completed the program within the last 3 years. Reagan Davis, a student at Texas Military Institute, and a member of the Extemporaneous Speaking team, describes the impact of her experience from the high school leaders: “In terms of my development as a leader, they really acted as a role model for me. They created a bond where I could feel comfortable and safe being vulnerable to learning and growing, but yet they still pushed me to be better every meeting.”

For the last 23 years, NHI@SA has cultivated leaders both in the Great Debate program and as high school staff. The impact of being trained and developed into a Latino leader by counterparts who very recently experienced a similar development is crucial to promoting the mission of both the National Hispanic Institute and our NHI@SA Alliance.

Our Head Coach for the 2019 Texas Great Debate, Carissa Cortez, a junior at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, elaborates on her experience in leading the team for the past six months by saying, “As Head Coach, I realized that I don’t have to be a certain age or have a certain credential to be in a leadership role; I can give 100% of what I already have to adapt and grow in any situation. Being Head Coach allowed me to understand that it’s not about the number of experiences you have, but rather experiencing situations with the people looking up to you and taking a more apparent role in guiding how to approach any given situation.”

As a region with participants from over 20 high schools across San Antonio, we are able to work with a plethora of backgrounds, requiring the creation of unique training modules to suit the needs of San Antonian 9th graders. We are excited to continue to grow as a team and make San Antonio proud at competition!

San Antonio NHI students, shown in the photo above with panelists Ixchell Gonzalez, Rosie Castro, and Ana Sandoval, are preparing for the Texas Great Debate taking place June 6-9 at Austin College. Visit for updates during the tournament.

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