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LDZ, NHI Programs

2024 New Mexico LDZ helps prepare young leaders to become ‘the future of New Mexico’

2024 New Mexico LDZ group photo
Posted: June 21, 2024 at 11:45 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

The latest edition of the Dionisio ‘Dennis’ Chavez New Mexico Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session brought more than 130 top New Mexico high school students to the University of New Mexico for the state’s version of the National Hispanic Institute’s flagship program.

The program is now in its third year of serving students after a nearly 20-year hiatus. As LDZ architect and NHI Executive Vice President Gloria de Leon notes, the vision of NHI alumnus and New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla was instrumental in bringing the program to UNM in 2022.

“As far as the rationale for NHI to return to New Mexico, it’s his dedication to just envisioning what the future of that state is going to be, centered on working with the best minds and the best kids … [it’s] not simply to put kids through leadership training … [it’s] for the kids to recognize themselves as being from the state of New Mexico, to embody the whole concept that they are at the core what makes up New Mexico.”

She added, “He wanted them to not only fall in love with their state, the richness, the beauty, the culture, everything, but also to envision themselves as the stakeholders, and even at this young age, meeting each other, like-minded individuals … this caliber of student, beyond just grades … that thoughtfulness and sensitivity and creativity that comes from their thinking. And this week embodied that. And so I think they’re convinced that they are New Mexico, and they are the future of New Mexico.”

2024 NM LDZ students with Michael Padilla and Gloria de Leon
New Mexico LDZ students with Sen. Michael Padilla and NHI EVP Gloria de Leon (Photo: Tony Morales)

One student, Serenity Foster of Explore Academy in Rio Rancho, said of her New Mexico LDZ experience, “To be honest, when I first came into this program, if you told me this would change my life, I would have found it hard to believe you. I didn’t think an eight-day program would alter my reality. However, I’m extremely happy to say that the LDZ and its esteemed community has helped me see my world in a new light. It is safe to say that NHI has changed me as a person, and I’ll forever remember this experience.”

Louis Valencia from Valley High School in Albuquerque, who was elected to the Supreme Court and became Chief Justice, said, “It was very challenging, which I that’s what it was going to be: Very challenging, but in different ways. But I really enjoyed it thoroughly. And as it continued to go on, I continued to make stronger relationships and challenge myself even more.”

He added, “Even after the program, I’ve continued to speak differently and just think a little differently. I think that going and taking that, that’s what they’re creating future leaders with.”

Lucas Robbins from Mandela International Magnet School in Santa Fe felt well-versed in politics and law before coming to the New Mexico LDZ but was surprised by the fully immersive quality of the program. “It was actually just teaching us how to be leaders and how to participate in the process itself, and it taught us that through changing our mindsets, working on developing us as people.”

UNM representatives also expressed pride in being part of the New Mexico LDZ.

“We are extremely pleased to support this collaborative endeavor throughout the years alongside the National Hispanic Institute,” said Dr. Lawrence Roybal of ENLACE New Mexico & UNM Health Sciences. “The Dionisio ‘Dennis’ Chavez New Mexico Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session is truly a transformational experience for outstanding students from throughout the Land of Enchantment. We were honored to host this important initiative at the University of New Mexico and the New Mexico State Capitol again this summer. We are immensely grateful to Senator Michael Padilla for providing generous legislative funding to make this government leadership development program possible each year.”

“We are proud to collaborate across the University of New Mexico and with NHI to serve our state and most importantly provide our young students from across New Mexico with an opportunity that will strengthen their leadership, their natural talents and their sense of belonging in higher education institutions,” added Rosa Isela Cervantes, Director and Special Advisor to the President, UNM El Centro de la Raza. “Most importantly, we want them to be proud of their heritage and state.”

Nine different participants had pieces of legislation passed during the session, including:

  • Myah Castro, Santa Teresa High School, Sunland Park (Enhancing Culture Within Our Youth)
  • Serenity Foster, Explore Academy, Rio Rancho (Passion for Postpartum)
  • Aaron Inman, St. Michael’s High School, Santa Fe (Cultural Preservation and Enhancement)
  • Lorenzo Lujan (Trade and Advanced Career Focus in Public School Expansion Act) 
  • Emma Martinez, Santa Teresa High School, Santa Teresa (Enhanced Pediatric Care in New Mexico) 
  • Sebastian Martinez, Santa Teresa High School, Santa Teresa (Enhanced Education Within Students with Special Needs)
  • Addie Nayback, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque (Spaces for the Arts in New Mexico Schools)
  • Valerie Pando, Las Cruces High School, Las Cruces (Pathways for Success in Indigenous Language Learners)
  • Anastasia Vigil, Cibola High School, Albuquerque (Expansion of Healthcare Programs in New Mexico)

Top Officials and Award Winners


Tevi Funaki, Los Alamos High School, Los Alamos

Lt. Governor

Maya Baca, St. Pius X High School, Albuquerque

Speaker of the House

Lucas Robbins, Mandela International Magnet School, Santa Fe

Supreme Court Chief Justice

Louis Valencia, Valley High School, Albuquerque

Most Distinguished Representative

Elie Bourg, Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science, Albuquerque

Most Persuasive Representative

Lorenzo Lujan, Robertson High School, Las Vegas

Best Debater

Valerie Pando, Las Cruces High School, Las Cruces

Outstanding Legislator

AJ Aizpuru, Mayfield High School, Las Cruces

Best Author of a Resolution

Vincent Fazio, Explore Academy, Rio Rancho

Most Distinguished Senator

Aaron Inman, St. Michael’s High School, Santa Fe

Most Persuasive Senator

Emma Martinez, Gadsden High School, Anthony

Best Debater

Anastasia Vigil, Cibola High School, Albuquerque

Outstanding Legislator

Addie Nayback, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque

Best Author of a Resolution

Adria Terpis, Organ Mountain High School, Las Cruces

Most Outstanding Member, Supreme Court

Elias Nysus, Las Cruces High School, Las Cruces

Most Distinguished Member, Supreme Court

Dante Flores, Santa Teresa High School, Santa Teresa

Best Orator

Alexa Chavez, Alta Vista Early College High School, Anthony

Top Winning Attorney Team

Christian Gonzalez Hernandez, Gadsden High School, Anthony and Roku Koirala, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque

Most Promising Leaders

Elias Romo, Piedra Vista High School, Farmington and Myah Castro, Santa Teresa High School, Sunland Park

Ricky Miranda Memorial Award

Mariana Pedroza, Albuquerque High School, Albuquerque

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