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Great Debate, NHI Programs

Texas Star Great Debate: Bringing students together to develop confidence and speak out

2022 texas star great debate students at schreiner university
Posted: June 24, 2022 at 11:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Soon after the dust settled on the Texas Great Debate — filling Schreiner University with animated students competing and collaborating in the National Hispanic Institute’s enduring tradition – another group of students came to Kerrville for the Texas Star Great Debate. That six-day debate program, held June 16-21, brought 75 students together for the first of NHI’s 2022 six-day Great Debate programs. 

“The Texas Star Great Debate continues to be the National Hispanic Institute’s most impactful 9th-grade experience,” said Paola Hernandez, educational director for the program. “Schreiner University’s campus was the perfect backdrop for students to begin their NHI journey, practice leadership, and sharpen their communication skills. It was a privilege to work with a number of the Latinx community’s brightest students as they found their voice, gained confidence and created opportunities for themselves and each other. My hope is they will continue to challenge social narratives that no longer serve the Latinx community and work together to create a better future.” 

Participants in the program reported that they developed both their public speaking and confidence through their time at the program. 

Julian Hall from CAST Tech High School in San Antonio, part of the Cross-X champion team, noted, “What I got out of this program was a lot more confidence in myself. I felt like I was able to really speak for myself and speak out, instead of having to be set back like I was whenever I was back in San Antonio. I feel like I’m a lot more free now that I know I have this kind of confidence within me, and I’ll make sure to come back [to NHI] in the next year and the years after that.” 

His partner in the Cross-X competition, Charise de Leon of Falfurrias HS in Falfurrias, added, “Being in this program has really helped me be more outspoken.” 

“I really unlocked potential,” added Cross-X finalist Alfredo Ramirez from John B. Alexander High School in Laredo.  “I knew I could do all these things, but I didn’t have the confidence to do any of them, But after speaking on stage in front of a bunch of people, I know what I can do and how I can put it to use.” 

As with NHI’s other six-day Great Debate programs, teams were drafted by coaches, and the individual members then prepared in various speech and debate categories leading up to the competition. 

Award recipients, recognized for their performances during the week (as well as several special awards honoring contributions to the spirit of the event, include: 

Hall of Fame Award

  • JB Barrera, Falfurrias HS, Falfurrias, Texas 

Estrellita Award

The Estrellita Award is presented to a female participant who best represents the spirit of Esther Alfaro Nieto (who serves as an inspiration for much of what NHI does). The recipient “not only strives for personal excellence in her development, but, more importantly, illuminates the light of hope for others to succeed.” 

  • Leslie Duran, South Texas ISD Medical Professions, Brownsville, Texas


  • Audrey Brown, Jimmy Carter Early College HS, La Joya, Texas
  • Israel Vasquez, Burbank HS, San Antonio, Texas 

Extemporaneous Speaking

  • All-State: Ismerai Aldape, Reagan HS, San Antonio, Texas 
  • 2nd Place: Kaylie Morales, Del Rio Freshman Campus, Del Rio, Texas 
  • 1st Place: Jesus Salazar, Eagle Pass HS, Eagle Pass, Texas 


  • All-State: AJ Guzman, South Elgin HS, Elgin, Ill. & Emilia Vega, La Joya HS, La Joya, Texas 
  • 2nd Place: Alfredo Ramirez III, John B. Alexander HS, Laredo, Texas & Aiden Martinez, Highlands HS, San Antonio, Texas 
  • 1st Place: Julian Hall, CAST Tech HS, San Antonio, Texas & Charise De Leon, Falfurrias HS, Falfurrias, Texas  


  • All-State: Natalia Marquez, St. Francis HS, Mountain View, Calif. 
  • 2nd Place: Merairi Uribe, Palmview HS, La Homa, Texas
  • 1st Place: Daniel Goebel, Windermere Preparatory School, Lake Butler, Florida

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