LDZx gears up for its second year engaging students online
When the COVID-19 pandemic altered the course of the National Hispanic Institute in 2020, staffers set about to create digital versions of the Great Debate and the Collegiate World Series, which launched in time for students that summer. The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session provided a whole different challenge — and, ultimately, a rethinking of what an online program should be.
When it ultimately launched last July, it took the essence of the LDZ experience — students collaborating with each other from defined roles and specific perspectives, but looking at governance from both an individual and a collective point of view, all through the lens of NHI core philosophies.
But it was also different by design. Rather than replicate the legislative model, the program’s architects — starting with NHI co-founders Ernesto Nieto and Gloria de Leon — envisioned an entrepreneurial business model that might have more practical applications for more NHI alumni in their professional careers.
That vision not only succeeded in its debut year, it’s being offered as the sole digital learning experience in 2022, as Great Debate and CWS students are returning to exclusively in-person experiences, while a diverse group of more than 50 students — with room for more — will look for a digital LDZ experience informed in part by last year’s lessons.
Julio Cotto, NHI Senior Vice President, noted that when talking to various faculty members and Secretary of State candidates developing the initial LDZx, many of them independently noted that they shouldn’t be married to the legislative model and roles specified in the LDZ, but could still benefit from what the LDZ taught.
“Robert’s Rules is something that everybody uses, it’s not just government,” Cotto explained. “So they use still those protocols, but they weren’t senators, they were members of these different task forces. And in the way they were organized is one group had a more macro lens, and then the other group had a more micro lens. So the macro group was looking at kind of a broader impact, long-term sustainability. When all is said and done, what are the big outcomes? And then the other committee looked at it more from the micro lens, asking ‘How’s this gonna get done? What are the structures, what are the systems, what are timelines, and then the executive would have to take the reports from either side.”
For Cotto, the “game” of the LDZx has applications in business, non-profit organizations, and for entrepreneurs and startup teams that make it particularly valuable for those who want to lead in those arenas — especially those who come to value the twin concepts of community equity building and community social entrepreneurship through the entirety of NHI’s leadership programs.
LDZx — billed as a digital governance experience, and removing the Youth Legislative Session from the title — uses a five-day schedule compared to the eight of NHI’s in-person flagship program. That’s also by design, done to make the program more focused and intense for those who prefer that type of experience.
“We’ve found in the digital space, I think especially now, students have gotten really acclimated to navigating these systems for work purposes and not just social purposes. And so they’re pretty quick pulling up a sheet, getting a Google doc going, engaging in a conversation on text or Discord in order to move their ideas along. So we really did find that even though LDZx was shorter to begin with, they had more than enough time to really do a lot of quality work … shortening it a little bit makes it a little bit more high impact and a little bit more intense, just because you have a little less time now to get things done.”
Cotto also notes that the skill sets LDZx students are developing have practical applications that make the takeaways immediately applicable for recent alumni.
“The skills of doing digital programming and digital management were immediately valued by their employers and by their professors, because they came with a lot of valuable technical skill sets. The participants actually could see that benefit.” And, as Cotto continued, many workplaces and organizations are still relying on digital tools for decentralized offices, regardless of an increased ability for people to return to offices.
“I think participating in some sort of virtual organizational experience is going to definitely give you a leg up,” he remarked. “It’s going to give you an edge in the future.”
The 2022 LDZx will take place July 25-30, and you can apply on the NHI website if you are ready to experience all that LDZx offers.