JHS Students Attend Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute

Jamestown High School students, Tiffany Kilburn and Gabriella Rosario, with JHS English teacher, Norma DeJoy, at the Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute in Albany.

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Jamestown Public Schools

Jamestown High School students, Tiffany Kilburn and Gabriella Rosario, were chosen as student delegates for the Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PR/HYLI). Tiffany and Gabriella, along with their advisor, JHS English teacher Norma DeJoy, participated in four workshops at Erie I BOCES and traveled to Albany for three days with over 300 students from 12 NYS PR/HYLI delegations to assemble to debate key bills in a mock assembly. The goal of the program is to empower Latino/Hispanic youth with research and debate skills. The students used their skills during debate at the Mock Assembly session, which is conducted in the NYS Assembly chamber in Albany. The students also attended a recognition dinner where college scholarships were awarded.

“This is the second year we have participated in the Institute,” said Ms. DeJoy. “The PR/HYLI emphasizes the importance of being part of the political process, at the local, state, and national level. In addition, the students learn valuable skills including research, debate, and public speaking – skills that benefit them both in and outside the classroom. It is a great experience for our students who gain knowledge and self-confidence preparing for and participating in the PR/HYLI assembly.”

The students were given four, current bills to study. Then, they participated in four workshops at Erie I BOCES to train with regional RBE-RN coaches on the bills and build on their knowledge of the legislative process. The students also spent a day at the University at Buffalo’s Law Library where they practiced debating the bills. A highlight of the experience was meeting Judge Betty Calvo-Torres, who shared her educational experiences as well as career highlights during her tenure as a Latina judge in Buffalo. All of these training sessions prepare student delegates for a culminating PR/HYLI weekend retreat in Albany.

“I was the Speaker of the House during our time in Albany,” said Tiffany, who was chosen for that position because of her last year’s performance at PR/HYLI and plans to attend JCC next year to become a registered nurse. “It really gave me an idea of what it is like to have the spotlight on you when you are speaking in front of so many people. It also taught me a lot about organization, leadership and working under stress. And, I met some really interesting people in Albany too.”

The Institute has the following goals for its student delegates:

  • The development of leadership skills in Latino/Hispanic Youth;
  • The creation of opportunities for Latino/Hispanic students to interact with positive role models such as Puerto Rican/Latino elected officials, educators, and business leaders;
  • The creation of partnerships and conversations among educators, business leaders and students, a
  • The development of an in depth knowledge of the state legislative process, and
  • Extension and refinement of leadership skills: back in their local communities, student delegates continue to develop leadership skills and put their skills “to practice.”

“I thought it was amazing to see how the Hispanic community can come together to have a voice in politics; we need representation,” said Gabriella, who went to PR/HYLI for the first time this year and plans to go into business or become a teacher. “I will definitely do it again next year as it really was a great experience.”

PR/HYLI is an innovative collaboration with the NYS Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force in conjunction with the annual SOMOS El Futuro conference, Office of Bilingual Education and World Languages, the New York City Department of Education, and other agencies.