Mathis High School continues its unique partnership with NHI
Mathis High School has an impressive place in the National Hispanic Institute’s network of schools — in 2021, more than five percent of NHI students hailed from the South Texas high school near Corpus Christi. That put it ahead of longtime NHI partner high schools like Veterans Memorial High School and Saint Joseph Academy, both in Brownsville, Texas, Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas, and Colegio Ignacio Zaragoza in Saltillo, Mexico.
As Roxanne Aguirre, CTE Director of College and Career for Mathis High School, tells it, her school — starting with Superintendent Benny Hernandez, and extending to the past and present group of participating students — are bought in on what NHI delivers.
“What it does for our kids, it is a great opportunity for them,” she noted. “I’ve seen our kids become leaders, they really, really enjoy it. … They love it, the friendships that they’ve made, the way they push them to be leaders and speakers — it is just an amazing, amazing thing for them.”
This past summer, Mathis High School made a strong appearance in NHI’s summer programs, starting with a prominent role in the organization’s return to live, in-person programming at Schreiner University. As students prepared to work hard this semester, Mathis ISD made the process exciting and incentivizing for the students as motivation to join the NHI family.
NHI has established a program for rising freshman students called Heroes, Heroines, and Legends, that originally piloted at Mathis ISD in 2016, and has been part of the Mathis student experience since. It prepares students for future NHI programs, providing mentorship and training from high school students that have experience engaging in the Great Debate, LDZ, or CWS. By integrating an extra level of preparation for incoming NHI students, this demonstrates the commitment that Mathis ISD holds toward their students.
This program allows students to mentor each other, as well as enables them to build support for and respect among one another.
The CWS kids are our ambassadors here in school, so they’re the ones that the others look at,” said Aguirre. “These kids are now going to be mentors to our freshmen.”
When it first launched, Mathis ISD community liaison Ernesto DeLuna noted, “I have seen dozens of programs over the years but nothing compares to what I witnessed at the NHI Summer Camp,” praising NHI as “magicians” for inspiring students throughout the program, reporting that the participating students now walk around campus “with their heads held up high and full of confidence.”
Aguirre notes that the involvement of students from even before they reach high school signals, “We’re investing in our students. We are showing them that we believe in you – Mathis ISD believes in you.”
Julio Cotto, NHI’s senior vice president, noted, “Often, small communities have deep roots and powerful tales that can inspire more so than the big city. We can easily point our attention to large metropolitan communities, large high schools, and marquee institutions. However, a close-knit community like Mathis can equally have a range of powerful assets and potential social influence.”
“The Heroes, Heroines, and Legends project works with middle schoolers just weeks before officially starting high school,” he noted, in talking about his work with Mathis rising freshmen this past summer. “They have a different take on life and a unique energy but their ability to tell stories and lead are strong. Through Heroes, students come to learn the importance of building and shaping narratives. As soon-to-be ninth graders, they are about to start a new academic narrative through the transcript that will eventually be reviewed by colleges. Heroes participants also have the chance, much like other NHI programs, to work with top high school peers and undergraduates. I was privileged to get to be back in this wonderful community and learn about more heroes throughout the town. It is also great to start building new experiences for younger leaders.”
Although Mathis, Texas is a relatively small town, Mathis ISD is expecting a great turn out for Summer 2022 programs, anticipating 20 freshmen, 20 sophomores, 20 juniors, and 40-60 middle school students to participate in the preparation program.
Jailynn Garcia, who participated in the Texas LDZ this summer, discussed her own personal growth that has been inspired by her LDZ experience. Despite losing her run for a Senate seat, she still pursued the Governor’s Cabinet as her next option, and like so many before her in an LDZ, getting her “second choice” appointment proved to be exactly what she needed.
“I felt like I was able to talk more and express myself,” she said in reference to expanding her limits. “After spending time with the cabinet, I was able to talk in bigger groups.”
Yadhira Eguia, currently a sophomore at Mathis, participated in the GDx over the summer, revealing that she discovered a new confidence within herself as a result of being in the program.
“The GDx helped me realize that I am capable of changing my community for the better, even as a sophomore in high school,” she noted.
When asked what advice she would give to prospective NHI students, she replied, “If you have the opportunity to do NHI, do it. It has changed my life in so many aspects, even in the smallest of ways. If you do NHI, the same can happen for you.”
Mathis ISD continues to prepare students not only for their NHI experience, but also for their academic excellence as well. As NHI welcomes more participants this summer, Mathis students will arrive with great training and practice among their peers. Great things are happening in Mathis, Texas, and NHI looks forward to celebrating their successes with them.
This article was written by Sofia Hernandez, an NHI alumna and an NHIMagazine.com contributor.