More than 400 high school and college students filled The University of Texas-Pan American Student Union Theater Wednesday to hear national Hispanic leaders and learn about internships, fellowships and scholarships with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).
The hour-long afternoon panel presentation was part of CHCI's two-day annual retreat and first-ever visit to South Texas. The CHCI is comprised of Hispanic members of Congress and corporate leaders dedicated to providing educational programs for Hispanic college and postgraduate students.
"I'm deeply honored to come to UT Pan American, my alma mater," said Congressman Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes).
"It's a wonderful feeling to bring these members of Congress and other national leaders back to this campus, and I'm pleased the Caucus voted to come down here and look at the potential of this region, which has grown tremendously in the last decade."
Headed by Ingrid Duran, CHCI executive director, participants included Hinojosa; Rep. and CHCI Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso); Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA); Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA); Raul Yzaguirre, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza; CHCI Programs Director Carmen Joge; and CHCI Corporate Fellow Noralisa Leo.
During the session, panelists gave a personal profile and encouraged students to follow their dreams and aspirations. There also was a brief question-and-answer session addressing issues of leadership, migrant education and handling challenges.
"If I can go from walking the cotton fields of the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas to walking the halls of Congress, so can you," Reyes said. "You need to stay here and get an education because it is a powerful tool that can never be taken away. I also want to tell you that somebody will be in Washington, D.C., as a part of our Institute, so why not you?"
"Our real goal is to help inspire young people," she said. "Sí se puede - you can do it. Your dreams are possible, but you have to put your energy, effort and heart into it."