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IU Bloomington hosting Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy

Today (Thursday, July 23, 2009) is the third and final day of Indiana's third-annual Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, which this year took place at Indiana University Bloomington. From July 21-23, 50 Latino students from nearly two dozen Northwest Indiana high schools lived on campus at IU, where they attended workshops, networked with successful Hispanic community leaders and honed leadership skills.

The academy is a program of the Hispanic Organization Promoting Excellence (HOPE), founded by Lake County Indiana Sheriff Roy Dominguez. The academy's executive director is Josť Arredondo, who created the Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy.

Students from high schools in Lake and Porter counties were preselected by their guidance counselors for the summer leadership program, which is free for all students who meet the academy's requirements. Accepted students must have recently completed their junior year of high school, have a minimum 2.5 GPA and at least one parent who is Hispanic. Each student also submits an essay titled "What Leadership Means to Me."

Latino Leadership Youth Camp

Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy

Print-Quality Photo

Programs like this one are essential for Indiana's burgeoning Latino population, said Arredondo, who is also an assistant professor of education at Valparaiso University.

"For the past two decades, Hispanics have had the highest high school dropout rate of any ethnic group anywhere in the country. Only one in five who go to college finish," he said. "The demographic increase won't do any good if we don't teach leadership skills and offer guidance."

Arredondo was a fan of the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey; when he saw that Covey's son, Sean Covey, had written a similar book targeted at teens, he thought it would be perfect for Latino teens in the academy. Each participating student will receive a copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey prior to the academy.

Workshop topics are based on the motivational book and include "Be Proactive," "Begin with the End in Mind" and "Think Win-Win," as well as more IU-focused sessions such as "Get to Know IU," in which students learn about the history of IU Bloomington and take part in an "amazing race" across campus.

"Each session will be hosted by a different person, so kids will be exposed to a variety of different folks," said Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa Latino Cultural Center at IU. "They'll get a chance to talk to some Latino faculty and some IU students, and also acquire some very specific skill sets."

Participants will learn about different styles of group leadership, effective conflict resolution and mediation skills, stress and life management skills, how to become a servant leader and the role of ethics in decision-making.

Speakers and session leaders include Casillas, IU student volunteers, Arredondo and David Cordova, the former vice president and general manager of Telemundo-Chicago and current president of David Cordova and Associates LLC, a PR company, among others.

"This is a great opportunity for us -- these are really top of the line kids," said Casillas.

The inaugural academy took place at Valparaiso University in 2007 and last year was at Purdue University. This is the first year that the program is being hosted by IU Bloomington. The Bloomington Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy is being sponsored by La Casa, IU Office of Admissions, IU Latino Alumni Association, HOPE, Ivy Tech, United Way and Jan-Pro.

Arredondo said that when he called school guidance counselors to gather nominations for this year's summer academy, many told him that students who were nominated for participation last year had thanked them profusely. "Some of those students told their guidance counselors it was the best experience they'd had in life so far," he said.

Arredondo recently heard from two former academy students, both of whom had just completed their first year of college (at Iowa University and Wabash College, respectively), and both of whom ended the year with GPAs over 3.5. Of the first class of Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy students, all 44 went to college, he said.

In Arredondo's eyes, this is only the beginning: "My ambition in life is to eventually bring in 200 kids from all over the state for a weeklong Leadership Academy."