This post is a conversation with Nicole Nieto about Latino college students. She is the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Institute and the daughter of its founder and president, Ernesto Nieto. She has been with the organization for 20 years.
The National Hispanic Institute (NHI) was established in 1979 to provide the Latino community with a means to identify, select, and train its future leaders. Through community organization endeavors and the design of powerful leadership programs for high school age youth, NHI has heightened the community leadership capacities of 100,000 students from throughout the United States and parts of Latin America. The three core summer programs broaden young people’s communication skills, governance and organizational development capacities, self-management abilities, social networks, knowledge of challenges that face Latino communities, and college opportunities. The impact of the NHI leadership experiences on students trend toward increased personal initiative, self-determination, innovative thinking, and community collaboration towards common endeavors.
The NHI is often asked if there is a “secret recipe” that inspires youth to engage in their own personal and professional development. Our tips fall in two areas:
1) the organizational culture of the institution
2) programs/activities that can support student success.
We believe that the organizational culture of colleges and universities plays a significant role in how Latino college students integrate into campus life. As freshmen arrive to campus for the first time, they may immediately feel familiar with campus culture or “foreign” to it. While most students sense the excitement of a new place and space, some may feel a greater need to give up part of themselves to fit in; others feel at home and may even be trend-setters. Students who feel the need for great “self-change” may struggle to fit into their environment, making life more stressful than usual.