The 2022 JFL program: transformative experiences for its college participants
Transformative experiences at the National Hispanic Institute don’t stop after high school.
In 2022, 11 college students participated in the John F. Lopez Summer Internship program, getting to help NHI produce its fullest slate of in-person programs in three years. 2022’s JFL experience meant travel in a way that it hadn’t since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which helped make for a magical experience.
“I know it sounds kind of crazy, but it was the best time of my life without a doubt,” declared Rodrigo Rosales Visoso, starting his sophomore year at Tec de Monterrey after going to multiple NHI programs over the summer to do, as he put it, “1000 different jobs.”
“I felt like I was really fulfilling my purpose in life,” he shared. “Knowing that you’re making a positive impact in your community; those brilliant young minds really made my heart grow and feel full. So I loved each and every moment of the experience.”
Damary Alvarez, going into her second year at the University of Chicago, also got to participate in running summer programs. She recalled one interaction with a student at an LDZ program who was disengaging from the program, exemplifying her drive to “continue to push them to run for positions and just have an active role.”
She was able to inspire the student to run for Speaker of the House – exemplifying the encouragement she offered to help counter whatever anxiety or trepidation kept them from fully plunging in. And, as she observed, “Those little feats throughout the day – that’s what kept me going.”
Victoria Gasca, who just began her sophomore year at Yale University, worked in NHI’s Business Office for her JFL experience, but was particularly excited to do the New Mexico LDZ and International CWS programs.
She noted that the New Mexico program was very exciting “because we hadn’t been to New Mexico in at least 20 years, so it was very exciting to have that brought back as well as the fact that Ernesto Nieto and Gloria de Leon were both there. So I got to get that firsthand experience from the people who originally conceptualized and brought these programs to life.”
The International CWS brought Gasca, Alvarez and Rosales Visoso together on the University of the South campus, which they all found to be a bonding experience. (The photo accompanying this article — with the adorable goats – came from this first-ever program in the heart of Tennessee.)
“It was a very welcoming campus,” Gasca recalled. “The University of the South was always there for us, they had all these resources for us, they give us a dinner on the first day, which is very nice. I’ve never seen anything like that for an NHI program.”
The JFLs also got to know the NHI Fundamentals well from weekly staff meetings in which the guiding principles of the organization are reviewed one by one, week by week.
Both Alvarez and Rosales Visoso noted that Fundamental 9, “Proceed Only on Faith,” was critical for both of them.
Rosales Visolo, noting that he’s typically a very organized person, and that POOF meant for him, “I gotta just trust that everything’s gonna be okay. And I mean, of course, keep doing my part and making sure everything’s going alright, but also trusting your fellow staff members and participants.”
Alvarez added, “POOF helped me realize, ‘Don’t second guess yourself; go with your gut. Go with your instincts. If you feel like whatever you’re doing for the students is right, then just go along with it.”
Gasca noted that a different fundamental, “Free Your Mind to Create” (Fundamental 15), guided her in much the same way that POOF guided Alvarez.
“All the participants didn’t necessarily have the expectation of what an LDZ looked like,” she recalled. “And we were given [some] freedom to make it very specific to New Mexico, because what’s unique about that program is that only students from the state of New Mexico were participating in it. So we did model it more closely after the New Mexico State Legislature.”
Also, because of the pandemic, Gasca and others didn’t have in-person CWS experiences to guide them when they helped deliver the International CWS.
“I had done it online, kind of in two parts. 2020 and then 2021,” she explained. So I also had no idea — I wasn’t entirely sure what CWS looked like in person, even though I had some thoughts, but getting to do that was very rewarding.”
She noted that the educational director and other key staffers “wanted us to have that experience of putting our own touch on it, trusting our own instincts, and not just doing as we’re told, but actually being able to step up and make adjustments or be creative. Obviously, still incorporating the NHI beliefs and the NHI values, but being able to experiment a little bit and bring a positive impact on the students and also on our own experience as well.”
This summer’s JFL group included:
- Damary Alvarez, University of Chicago
- Juan Cardenas, University of Chicago
- Brian Cruz, University of Texas at Austin
- Daniela Estrada, University of Chicago
- Victoria Gasca, Yale University
- Hedy Gutierrez Valdez, University of Chicago
- Jareth Quintero-Opatowski, University of North Texas
- Melanie Rangel, University of the South
- Rodrigo Rosales Visoso, Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
- Isabella Sada, Austin College
- Paolina Sada, Schreiner University