Celebrate & Cherish Our Latino Culture: St. Mary’s College of Maryland furthers the Legacy and growth of NHI at the 2023 American LDZ
July 24th, 2023 | Article by Jareth Quintero-Opatowski
Hosting 105 participants, many of whom came from the Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico and various states in the United States, at St. Mary’s College – The Honors College of Maryland, was excited to host the American LDZ once again. The 2023 American Lorenzo Youth Legislative Session occurred from July 9th to July 16th at St. Mary’s City, Maryland, with excitement, surprise guests, and a U.S. capitol visit!
The American LDZ had the honor of having two NHI board members, Maria Jose Cruz, as one of the Educational Directors and Dr. Janitzio Guzman, as the Stay Safe Officer. As well as a special visit from John F. Lopez, another board member who is a long standing board member.
As many participants were preparing to continue their NHI journey, while others were beginning theirs, the air filled with excitement once the program started. Participants were given the opportunity to meet others and understand they would be recognized as delegates, beginning their governance journey.
Only being the second year for the American LDZ to be hosted at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, many of the staff have expressed excitement and future endeavors for the program. As Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris Sr., Vice President for Equity and Strategic Initiatives at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, states, “I was greatly impressed, not only by the structure of the organization but by the students … We look forward to having a long relationship with the National Hispanic Institute. I am very glad we created this relationship with NHI.”
On one of the days, when election day approached, many participants expressed joy, nervousness and determination as election day arrived. Through the support of each other, their senior and junior counselors, various speeches were given showcasing participants skills and assets they have in their communities. After a fruitful day of elections, the following delegates were nominated to represent the whole delegation:
- President: Matias Del Alba, Tenafly, New Jersey
- Vice President: Caterina Saldana, San Jose, California
- Speaker of the House: Andres Alejandro Bravo Garza, Bettendorf, Iowa
- Chief Justice: Melina Balcorta, El Paso, Texas
Despite whether a participant had won or lost the position they were running for, there were numerous opportunities to be recognized and as well continue to experience the American LDZ to its fullest. Many of which, recognizing early on that the most impact a participant would obtain is by learning of others cultures and creating memories with the days to come.
Smiles and memories were shared, along with excitement as studies were approaching the U.S. Capital. On the excursion, one of the many fun parts of the LDZ, participants were given the opportunity to tour the U.S. capitol building in Washington D.C.! During the excursion, the participants had the honor of being visited by special guests, NHI alumni, who work in the U.S. capitol under congressmen and in various departments, Clarissa Robles, Carlos Paz and Cristobal Ramirez. As well as Chris Avalos, who is a political campaign consultant. After walking through the capitol, participants were taken to eat at the Amtrak Station to be able to taste some of the many food options Washington D.C. has to offer!
Once the program was beginning to conclude, the awards ceremony was on its way to showcase the young leaders who took governance beyond and created impact during their time at the program. One of the most important awards given at any LDZ program is known as the Ricky Miranda Award, dedicated to a past NHIer who never gave up, despite the losses this individual took at their program, they continued to smile and push for more. The following delegate had the honor of being the recipient of this award: Milauris Berroa, La Romana, Dominican Republic.
Another special guest appeared, which Jareth Quintero-Opatowski had the honor of working with, NHI alumni, Araceli Sandoval from North Carolina. She hopes to help create a region for NHI in her home state! She was given the opportunity to come to American LDZ to be able to not only be reminded of how special NHI is, but also obtain more information on how she can begin recruiting future NHIers in her area.
After the program concluded, many were given the opportunity to say their final goodbyes to one another and reflect on how much they have grown in just a small amount of time. Many of the participants expressed their desire to come back and help provide the same experience to future LDZers, while others expressed their gratitude for being able to to express themselves.
The National Hispanic Institute expresses its gratitude to our partners at St. Mary’s College of Maryland for being able to have their support and ensure many students from across Latin America are able to experience this unique opportunity of the American LDZ. NHI continues to remain proud to have its legacy and culture be cherished and promoted.