Students who participate in the Cesar Chavez Leadership Institute strive to have a positive impact on their communities
The various campuses of Arizona State University often host summer programs for high school students across the state. But there is one program that stands out in particular for its highly interactive, vigorous leadership training program.
The Cesar Chavez Leadership Institute, created in 1995 by a group of ASU students and leaders involved in their community, continues to impact the lives of future leaders in the hopes of continuing the legacy of Cesar Chavez.
As an alumnus of the program myself, I can testify to the amazing memories and lessons learned in the few days spent as a delegate. Never having been to a summer program before, the thought of staying with strangers in a college dorm made me anxious. But as I met my fellow delegates and facilitators, I realized that I underestimated the impact CCLI would have on me.
Throughout the program, I met leaders such as Johan Khalilan, who despite coming from a poor neighborhood and being told that he was not good enough to achieve his dreams is now an inspirational speaker, actor, and model traveling around the world telling his story. Coming from a school and community with a not-so-positive reputation, I related to him on a deeper level and his words gave me hope, as well as to the other delegates.
Many of the students I met in the program I formed a bond with, as well as the facilitators, and I continue to stay in touch with them as we strive to make an impact on our community.
“We’re all here for the same reason,” delegate Matthew Kaplan said. “And that’s because we all care about our communities, and we all want to make a difference.”
Not everyone had an positive experience in the program. Facilitator Stephen Hermens shared his experience as a delegate back in 2011 and why he came back as a mentor: “When I was a delegate in the program, I had trouble connecting…I had trouble getting involved in the program. Chuy (his facilitator) was totally calm, he worked with me, and he gave me the sense of being loved even though I wasn’t participating. That sense made me want to come back and give that to the kids.”
Delegate Fern Soto also took away a valuable lesson from CCLI: “I’ve broken away from my shell…I’m going to stop being so afraid to share my opinion, I’m going to volunteer…. I’m going to try to make a difference in my community.”