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Seniors Attend Leadership Institute in Albany

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Glen Cove High School seniors Yanira Acosta Yanes and Mindy Morales Espinoza participated in this year’s Angelo del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany, New York, from March 9-11. Mindy and Yanira were part of a group of 42 students representing Long Island. Approximately 250 high school students statewide attended the three-day event.

The leadership institute provides an opportunity for New York State high school Latino/Hispanic students to enhance their leadership skills and knowledge in order to be productive citizens. Through the training activities completed in the months leading up to the institute, students gained knowledge of the New York State legislative process. These activities focused on public speaking and debating, research of four bills to be debated at the mock state assembly, networking, interview of their local assembly member and discussion of issues that affect the future of Latino/Hispanic youth. The training sessions were led by one of the district’s former ENL teachers, Gaetano Vaccaro, who was also the leader of the Long Island delegation. 

On Saturday, student delegates arrived at the University at Albany campus for the opening of the institute. They were greeted by opening remarks and a moderator chosen from the various delegations. The assembly continued with the keynote speaker, Julissa Arce, a CNBC media contributor, writer, speaker and social justice advocate. 

Delegates then attended various workshops to prepare leadership projects based on the theme of being bilingual and biliterate. Workshops were chosen previously and included filmmaking, dance, song, My Voice, murals, spoken word/hip hop and drama. In the evening, students presented their respective projects to everyone. Mindy and Yanira worked on a mural inspired by the theme of the presentations. 

On Sunday, all the delegations made their way to the Capitol to prepare for the Legislative Mock Assembly. Students had been previously assigned their roles, with most playing the role of their district’s assembly person. The girls represented 13th District Assembly member Charles D. Lavine. There were also some specialty roles like governor, speaker of the house, clerks, minority and majority leaders, sergeant-at-arms, color guard and bill sponsors. The Legislative Mock Assembly was run only by student delegates. They split into their party caucuses and came back together to present bills, debate and vote on them. It was truly amazing to see! The day ended with the Recognition Dinner, where awards and scholarships were presented. 

On Monday, the Long Island delegation received a tour of the Capitol by 6th District Assembly member Phil Ramos. He gave them a private tour of the legislative offices, museum and Senate chambers.

As an alumnus of the youth leadership institute (’98) and mentor to the Glen Cove delegates, it was Spanish teacher Ms. Domifer Francisco’s honor to accompany Yanira and Mindy on this journey. The Glen Cove community should be very proud of these two young ladies for their hard work and dedication to this institute. Both Mindy and Yanira agreed that this was an experience like no other they’ve had. 

When asked what their major takeaway was, Mindy said, “When we come together, we can achieve so much as a community of Latinos,” and Yanira commented, “Everyone coming together as one and representing the Latino community was one of the best feelings.”