Hundreds of high schools invade Austin College for Texas Great D - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Hundreds of high schools invade Austin College for Texas Great Debate

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SHERMAN, TX -- Hundreds of high school freshman from all over the nation invaded Austin College’s campus in Sherman Thursday afternoon. The National Hispanic Institute will host its annual Texas Great Debate this weekend.

College administrators say they look forward to hosting this debate for the National Hispanic Institute, not only to benefit the young students, but to enhance the growing Hispanic community within the Sherman area.

Ernesto Nieto founded the national Hispanic institute in 1979.

"My initial emphasis was to try and focus on high ability kids," said Nieto.

Starting in Texas, the institute is now the largest Latino youth organization in the nation. His goal was always to provide opportunities of success for Latino children, especially those who aspired for more. 

"We're a changing world,” he said. “The Latino community will be one in three Americans by the year 2050. So the kids who are attending today will be around 50 years old."

Nieto says the Great Debate is just a start into a four year program for students and its purpose is to give participants the chance to form and articulate an opinion about ethical leadership.

"They're going to debate whether terms that have long been used like minority,” he said, “if they're any longer appropriate. In my view they're not. I think they're very debilitating."

Austin College welcomed 400 high school freshman on Thursday, but not for the first time.

"To me here at Austin College it's one of the most generous universities I’ve ever run into," Nieto said.  

Administrators say this event benefits the students participating as well as the community and campus life.

"We want a diverse- and have a diverse student body,” said Dr. Sheila Pineres, Austin College Vice President. “This just provides an additional avenue for students from all across the state to see how amazing and how wonderful Austin College is."

Students graduating from the program this year say the institute helped them beyond academic success.

"Obviously when you grow personally there are some really happy moments and some really profound, maybe even sad moments,” said Alessandra Delathera, graduated this spring and continues to be an active NHI participant, “when you go through those kinds of emotional experiences, you just tend to bond with the people you went through it with."

The debate starts tomorrow morning and will last through Saturday evening. Administrators at Austin College say they've hosted events for the institute for the past 24 years.