April 12, 2024

Nearly 100 students participate in HACU’s 29th Annual Capitol Forum Student Track

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities held an inaugural “HSInnovators” Student Track for 98 participants from colleges and universities in 10 states as part of HACU’s 29th Annual Capitol Forum, April 9-10, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Students of HACU’s Voces Nuevas Program were also in attendance at the Capitol Forum. The program is an initiative designed to help students engage in advocacy and develop leadership skills to voice their concerns effectively, as well as develop strategies promoting innovative and socially conscious solutions at the local, state and national levels. The students were sponsored by Capital One.

The student track began with two preconference sessions on April 9, preparing students to advocate for 600 Hispanic-Serving Institutions and the crucial role these colleges and universities play in educating 5.2 million students.

The session, “Tips for Successfully Advocating for HSIs,” provided background on demographics at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and HACU’s advocacy initiatives, allowing students to develop a briefing approach for their members of Congress that incorporated personal narratives as Latino, first-generation, DACA recipients, and/or Pell Grant beneficiaries. The session, “HSI Advocacy Pitch Competition,” gave selected students the opportunity to present their proposed pitch, receiving guidance and feedback on clarity, persuasiveness, and relevance to HSI advocacy from advocacy mentors who also served as judges in the pitch contest. Serving as student advocacy judges/mentors were: Tomás Encarnacion, Ph.D., senior advisor, U.S. Census Bureau; Ruth Hurtado, program manager, Federal Aviation Administration; and Frank Reyes, trustee, San Bernardino Community College District.

The following students were recognized as the top pitch presenters:
First - Marcela Mobati, Laney College
Second - Carlos Hernandez, University of Houston, HACU Voces Nuevas participant
Third - Dyami Ruiz- Martinez, San Bernadino Community College District

USDA Deputy Secretary Xiochitl Torres Small, the first Latina to hold this position, addressed students after the pitch presentation and prior to speaking at the Opening Plenary. Students attended the Capitol Forum sessions, followed by meetings at Congressional offices on April 10 with leadership and academics from their home institutions.