On Sep. 26 and 27, Trinity University, in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), concluded the summer 2022 LOFT (Latinos On the Fast Track) Leadership Institute with a gathering in Washington, D.C., focused on developing leadership skills and networking. Eight Trinity students, led by Trinity President’s Special Advisor for Inclusive Excellence, Juan Sepúlveda, J.D., were among the top 80 Latinx college students nationwide who participated in the trip.
Co-created by Sepúlveda, an HHF Board member, and Antonio Tijerino, president/CEO of HHF, the two-day gathering focused on leadership development, community building, professional networking, social impact, and discussing the issues of most concern to the student fellows along with their recommendations for action plans. Students were given the opportunity to attend a work session with Biden Administration White House and Domestic Policy Council staff, to host an Open Space Action Summit, and to attend HHF’s celebration at the Kennedy Center.
“It is critical for these young leaders from all over our nation to be connected to each other through their journeys in education, the workforce, and in the community in building social and professional capital,” Sepúlveda says.
“My favorite part of visiting D.C. was the networking and confidence [I gained] in knowing the route I want to take after completing my undergraduate studies, says Zoe Flores ’25. “I met so many amazing people that inspired me to stay motivated and focused on my academics.”
This experience gave Latinx students the opportunity to better connect with their roots while enjoying unique leadership experiences in the nation’s capital. “I am confident and proud to be Latina, so it made me extremely happy to be sitting in a room full of young Latinos with a panel of the top Latino leaders of this country,” says Sabrina Cuauro ’23. “To see myself be represented in so many different ways, it almost made me emotional, but most of all, it filled me with pride.”
One of the major activities students engaged in was Open Space, a process designed to put the power in the hands of the student fellows to leverage their priorities, visions, experiences, and talents. The fellows were responsible for identifying specific topics, issues, and questions they wanted to explore with their cohort while also creating the agenda and placing it on a community grid for everyone to see. They self-selected and presented their ideas, as well as led open conversations on their ideas or topics in smaller group sessions.
Open Space, along with the other activities, empowered student fellows to engage with their passions. “It allowed me to realize that the education system needs more spaces like that for young Hispanic, Latinx, and Chicanx students,” says Araceli Gonzalez ’23. “We earned the opportunity to be there, to be at an open summit, to meet Latino leaders in the White House, and to celebrate Hispanic culture. This trip for me meant more than just a trip to Washington, D.C., [I] was a first-generation Latina at the White House; [I] was a first-generation Latina surrounded by first-generation Latinos.”
The above picture was taken in front of the White House on the LOFT Leadership Institute trip to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2022. From left to right: Juan Sepúlveda, Sabrina Cuauro ’23, Zoe Flores '25, Carol Balaguer '24, Araceli Gonzalez '23, Dario Leal '25, Adrian Herrera '24, Ollin Morales '23, and Adam Garza '24.