FORT COLLINS - Alejandra Ruiz believes the future of Colorado is right there in the room with her. She is a senior at Fort Collins High School. But, this week, she is the Lieutenant Governor of a mock government put together by students learning to be leaders.
"I've got to know a lot of different kinds of Hispanics with different backgrounds, with different ideas," Ruiz said.
Every year, the National Hispanic Institute puts on the Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session at Colorado State University. Nearly 120 students from around the country and from the Dominican Republic created a mock government to learn how the system works.
"It's about teaching students how to mobilize constituencies, how to go out and find people, how to support their ideas," Lia Carpio, Educational Director, said.
She says students are taught vital skills in public speaking and critical thinking along with the training how laws are made and how lawsuits are litigated.
"So, by the time they get to college they've already learned some critical social skills that they need in order to lead their communities," Carpio said.
Luis Lister came to the session from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
"In a community, you really need to communicate with everyone. Teaching us how to not be afraid to communicate," Lister said. "I think it's gonna help me for all my life."
Carpio says she's excited that in the session's 26 year history, this year's session has 56 students from Colorado -- more than ever before.
"I think it's important to grow our own instead of just transplanting leaders," Carpio said. "We're training the students in Colorado because it's vital to the Colorado economy, to our culture, to our communities. It's really important."
Ruiz says she's learning how to make a difference.
"A lot of people complain of the things that happen," Ruiz said. "The thing is that they don't know how it happened and they they happen."