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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), the nation’s premiere Latino youth leadership development and educational organization, has hosted three students from San Jose as part of its 3rd annual R2L NextGen program July 14-19, 2013. In partnership with the Close Up Foundation and State Farm Insurance, the founding sponsor of the program, CHCI welcomed 40 low-income high school students from ten metro areas across the country to the nation’s capital to learn about how the federal government works, meet important leaders, visit historic sites, and develop a deeper understanding of how they can affect positive change in their communities.

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“The trip was wonderful,” said Celest Menchaca, student at Santa Teresa High School. “I was always an involved student and very into politics but going to DC was what I needed to get myself involved. It prepared me for so much to come and for my community.”

The other San Jose representatives were Martin Amezquita, a student at Monte Vista High School and Yatziry Ortiz, a student at James Lick High School.

“On one specific day, which was my favorite day, we actually went to go talk to our representatives in the senate based on what region we’re from and we discussed how we felt about our community, the issues that affected us, share and voice our opinion,” said Yatziry Ortiz. “I feel like I can take more initiative in my community.”

National support for program students is provided by Southwest Airlines, official airline sponsor of CHCI’s Leadership Programs, and Macy’s, the official wardrobe sponsor of R2L NextGen, which provided $250 gift cards to each student prior to their arrival in Washington, D.C.  Additional support for San Jose students was provided by Synopsis and the Castellano Family Foundation.

“We are very proud to include high school students in the Washington, D.C. experience that we have been providing to college students and college graduates for more than three decades,” said Esther Aguilera, CHCI President & CEO.  “These 40 talented Latino high school students are eager to learn more about government and policy, as well as prepare themselves to be the leaders of tomorrow.”

The R2L NextGen program is an extension of CHCI’s intensive one-day Ready to Lead (R2L) college readiness program, held in cities throughout the country. The 40 student participants in this program represent ten geographic areas, including Camden, NJ; the Central Valley of California; Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; New York; Phoenix; San Antonio; San Jose; and Washington, D.C. The program combines the Close Up Foundation’s civic education program and CHCI’s proven leadership curriculum for Latino youth to expand CHCI’s outreach to Latino high school students and increase its impact in the college readiness and leadership development arenas.

“Making sure that students from all backgrounds develop the skills and attitudes to become active and engaged citizens is an important to the health of our democracy, “ said Timothy Davis, President & CEO of the Close Up Foundation. “We looked forward to an exciting week where the students had the opportunity to discuss and debate policy issues, learn from their peers, and interact with Washington insiders.”

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