San Benito students gain leadership skills at national youth camp

SAN BENITO — Before arriving, students weren’t sure what to expect at their upcoming leadership-based summer camp.

They felt a mix of emotions from nervous to excited and even a bit scared.

But within the first couple of hours, they became so engaged in what they were learning that they couldn’t wait to see what they were going experience next.

A group of San Benito High School seniors recently attended the Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislation Session (LDZ), a summer camp held by the National Hispanic Institute (NHI) at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

The eight-day camp is designed to teach high school students how to navigate, manage and create large organizations by having them take charge of their own youth government, propose future community policies and projects.

In addition to making speeches and undergoing a series of leadership challenges, students created community project proposals that present an idea that advances an aspect of the Latino community, such as its culture, education, health or technology.

“San Benito High School believes in preparing students for future leadership roles,” said San Benito High School Principal Isabel Marichalar-Solis. “The Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative session provided our students opportunities to experience real-world issues by proposing policies and projects to impact their community and make a difference.”

Students’ experiences

Aydan Soliz, one of the students who attended LDZ, recommends that all students try to attend NHI events.

He and the other students said they enjoyed the camp so much that they want to create a NHI group at San Benito High School.

“This really does change your perspective on your community and the world,” he said.

Iris Garcia, another student who attended LDZ, said she feels like the camp has helped her grow.

“Going into the camp, I didn’t really like to talk in front of people or confront other people’s ideas, but that’s what this program is about,” she explained. “They want you to use your voice and speak your mind.”

Iris said through the program, she was also able to make many new friends.

“It was a really great experience because it makes you step out of your comfort zone,” she said. “I made new friends just in that week, but it feels like you’ve been with them forever like they’ve become family.”