Students launch Latinx Leadership Institute to encourage involvement, develop professional skills

Applications for the six-week spring program opened Monday for first- and second-years

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The logo for the Latinx Leadership Institute. The program is designed to empower Latinx students to pursue leadership positions at the University. 

Courtesy Latinx Leadership Institute

Founded this past summer by Latinx student leaders at the University, the Latinx Leadership Institute offered information sessions and opened its application Monday. LLI will start its programming this spring and is designed to empower Latinx students to pursue leadership positions at the University.

Raquel Talbott, a fourth-year College student and Latinx Student Alliance president, is one of the co-founders of LLI. She said that the program was formed over the summer to address a need among the Latinx student body for more leadership development services. 

“I met with Alex Cintron this past summer because he was interested in forming a program for the Latinx community, specifically for leadership development. He noticed that there was a lack of that type of service the University was providing,” Talbott said. “I think it's something that I have felt the need for in the past few years … and so a group of seven of us came together and formed [LLI].”

Alex Cintron, a third-year College student and Student Council’s vice president for administration, said the program is designed to provide a space for Latinx students to cultivate leadership skills and professionalism.

“All of us have the same hopes of LLI to be a space where Latinx students and future Latinx student leaders can come together and find community, providing the potential for more Latinx representation amongst student leadership,” Cintron said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. 

Talbott said while she values leadership within the Latinx community, the aim of LLI is to encourage Latinx students to get involved in leadership positions in the greater University community. 

“Our overall mission is to empower Latinx students at U.Va. and … give them professional skills, teach them how to be a Latinx leader at U.Va.,” Talbott said. “[We want to empower] them in their identity to give them the power and resources to elevate themselves and pursue leadership positions not just in the Latinx community but in the U.Va. community in general … because, in reality, there’s an underrepresentation of our community in those organizations and positions of leadership.”

Hector Quijano, a third-year College student and LLI executive director, said he hopes the program serves as an avenue to prepare students who otherwise might feel intimidated by the process to pursue leadership roles. 

“U.Va. has a lot of processes to get involved, and that can be very intimidating to a lot of students...especially [because] a lot of Hispanic students — including myself — are first generation college students,” Quijano said. “So we want to make sure that students pursue their interests and passions at U.Va. and give them the confidence, empowerment [and] … insight on using their Hispanic roots and culture along with their leadership potential.” 

Talbott added that LLI is designed for first- and second-year students, and that the group is hoping to recruit around 30 to 40 participants for this spring. The six-week program will start Feb. 14 and run through March 28. Participants will meet on a weekly basis.

“We are hoping to have talks and sessions where we bring in speakers and faculty or representatives from the Career Center and areas who can talk to the participants about leadership skills, professionalism and everyday issues Latinx leaders face,” Talbott said.

Quijano said the info sessions on Monday helped spread the word about the program, and that they will host two more on Nov. 1, two days before the application deadline. 

“We’ve been making sure we have our curriculum … so now it’s more the time for applications,” Quijano said. “We decided having some info sessions would be really important to explain what this program is, why we are doing it, and why it’ll be helpful for the community … so everyone is aware of the program and today was a good start to spread the word.”

Although the number of participants is somewhat limited this year, Cintron and Talbott said they hope the program will form a strong partnership with the University and receive sufficient resources in coming years, to admit as many students as possible.

“Marc Guzman, the assistant director of Multicultural Student Services from the Office of the Dean of Students, has been instrumental in our ability to develop and start this program,” Cintron said. “I began working with [him] to start developing the idea over the summer.”  

Talbott agreed that the LLI needs to expand its funding opportunities to enjoy greater success in the future. 

“Thankfully our program is being funded by [the MSS office] because it would have been really hard if it was just students looking for funding opportunities, but hopefully the program can expand and we won’t have to turn people away,” Talbott said. “Right now we are starting small because of our limited resources, so we’d like to see the University notice that this is something that our community needs and will do a better job of making sure we have adequate resources.”

Quijano said he is excited for the launch of LLI because it marks the beginning of what he hopes will be a valuable and longstanding program for students. 

“While it’s brand new, we think it can be around at U.Va. for many years like other leadership programs have been,” Quijano said. “If people are unsure about this program because it’s brand new, that’s fair, but it’s a six-week program, two hours a week and they’ll benefit a lot from it because it’ll be a unique experience.”

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