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Sixty High School Students Experience D.C. and Leave As Leaders

On Sunday, July 10, the R2L NextGen program brought 60 Latino high school students from ten different regions across the country to Washington, D.C. to participate in a week-long leadership and civic engagement program. At no cost to the participants, students received round trip travel, lodging, meals, training, and a $200 gift card for professional clothing.

Throughout the week students met prominent leaders, were active participants in workshops that helped them understand the issues affecting the Latino community, toured monuments and museums, and gained a deeper understanding of the importance of their role as engaged citizens in their communities. Students were addressed by several key leaders from Voto Latino, U.S. Department of Education, and White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

“The R2L NextGen program has provided me with an innovative and invigorating experience on how much the Latino community can change political issues. The program has inspired me not to be afraid to speak my mind regarding political issues and to never stop dreaming big.”

Liliana Maximiliano
Ironwood High School
Peoria, Arizona

On Monday, students started the day by discussing what it means to be Latino and gained a deeper understanding of the diversity among Latinos. Students learned about domestic issues that impact the Latino community and expanded their understanding of how government works. In the afternoon, students participated in a coding workshop with a representative from Microsoft and learned about careers in the STEM field.

Tuesday morning focused on immigration. Students shared their personal stories and discussed what should be done about our immigration system. This was followed by a panel with CHCI alumni and representatives from Dreamers in Virginia and National Council of La Raza. Afterwards, students heard from Xochitl Yañez, Corporate Relations Manager, State Farm®, about the importance of being involved and using their voices to make change. Students ended their day with a mock Congress where they learned how a bill becomes a law.

After two days of learning, debating, and thinking critically about issues affecting the Latino community, students spent Wednesday, July 13 using their voice on Capitol Hill. The morning activities included a congressional breakfast with CHCI’s President & CEO Domenika Lynch. During this session, students were addressed by Reps. Tony Cardenas and Albio Sires. Students also heard from a panel of representatives from the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association (CHSA), who shared what it is like to be involved in public policy and government. In the afternoon, students visited the offices of their congressional members, including face-to-face meetings with Reps. Pete Aguilar, Donald Beyer, Jim Costa, Ruben Gallego, Pedro Pierluisi, lleana Ros-Lehtinen, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Senator Mark Warner.

“The R2L NextGen is a leadership program that doesn’t just give us the skills but shows us how to have a voice. It showed us examples not only from the prominent leaders but each other.”

Jhair Galindo
Nimitz High School
Irving, Texas


In the last full day of the program, students heard from a panel of youth activists that shared how they got involved in their communities, the obstacles they faced, and how they overcame them. As a way to expose the R2L NextGen students to other Latino role models, members of CHCI’s Board of Directors, Advisory Council, sponsors, alumni, and CHCI staff joined the students for a mentoring luncheon at the National Education Association. This opportunity allowed students to ask mentors questions about their career trajectories and education.

As part of their R2L NextGen experience, students attended the CHCI Summer Programs Farewell Reception and received an official CHCI alumni pin. Students heard from Reps. Tony Cárdenas, Rubén Hinojosa, Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Sheila Jackson Lee, who stopped by to congratulate them on their accomplishments. Students were officially welcomed to the CHCI Alumni Association by CHCI D.C. Chapter President, Amilcar Guzman, who encouraged the students to stay in touch and use the CHCI network to improve their communities.

R2L NextGen student Britney Acevedo-Corona, a student at Roswell High School in Roswell, GA, was selected to give remarks on behalf of her fellow program participants. Britney told the audience, “We have to dream big. We have to make a change in our communities. We can make a difference – and we will. Our voices matter, and from now on, they will be heard.”

Click the link below to watch the video.

The week closed out with students critically thinking about how they will take what they learned in D.C. back to their communities. Participants from each of the ten regions worked together to identify whether they wanted to make a change within themselves, their community, or the world. They finished the program by standing in front of their peers and making a proclamation about what they wanted to change, and committed to holding each other accountable. The students left empowered and ready to take charge as leaders in their communities.

“The R2L NextGen program allowed me to realize the privilege I have in society and the necessity to use that privilege to advocate for the liberation of our own community. It gave me the tools and connections to be an agent of change within my community.”

Emily Reyneri
Pembroke Pines Charter High School
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Thank You Sponsors

CHCI is proud to count on the continued support of its generous sponsors to make this transformative program available to deserving high school leaders from across the nation. This program was made possible by founding sponsor, State Farm®Ford Motor Company FundMacy’s (the official R2L NextGen wardrobe sponsor), Southwest Airlines (the official airline of CHCI Leadership Programs), Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc., Univision, as well as a variety of regional supporters:

Central Valley of California Regional Fund
Pacific Gas & Electric Company The California Endowment

Puerto Rico Regional Fund
Amgen Wal-mart Puerto Rico

South Florida Regional Fund
Centene Corporation

Southern California Regional Fund

Washington, D.C. Regional Fund
The Carlos Pacanins-Machado Memorial Fund

Learn more about R2L NextGen and find out how you can help provide a life-changing experience for high school students in your community.