Pictured (l-r) are Alice High School Principal Berta Longoria, Diana Mendoza, Myles Beltran and Gloria Villalpando, high school assistant principal.

Mendoza, Beltran participated in speaking events

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

Diana Mendoza and Myles Beltran, both sophomores at Alice High School, returned from the National Hispanic Institute conference last week with more of a conviction to improve the future of the Latino community.

"It was more of changing your life and teaching us to communicate," Myles said. "And to get things done and stand up for yourself (as Latinos)."

Diana agreed.

"It really changed me, I'm normally a shy person and it made me more outgoing," she said. "It helped me to talk in front of crowds."

Myles and Diana worked in different groups and scenarios where they were asked to come up with a speech for or against topics dealing with Latinos and the economy.

"In the oratory (competition), we had one day to come up with a five minute speech," Myles said. "Since I want to pursue the film industry, I put together an advertisement for businesses using Latinos in the ads to promote more Latinos in television along with whites and blacks."

The youth leadership conference from Aug. 1 to Aug. 6 featured a debate tournament with four different categories that included cross examination debate, extemporaneous speaking, oratory and mock trial. The Youth Leadership Conference was held in Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, and was sponsored by the Gear-up Star grant program and NHI.

In the event, 48 teams of regionally mixed participants worked together to address certain situations in the adjudication event.

They said each group in the competition never knew which side they were going to debate until the last minute they were about to perform.

"During a coin toss we would find out if we were for or opposed," Myles said.

Myles competed in the oratory category and finished as a quarter-finalist and Diana placed third in the adjudication event and will advance to nationals at Austin in October.

Both said they will continue to be part of the National Hispanic Institute and hope to go back each year, even through their college years where they can qualify to compete internationally in Mexico and Spain.

"It creates a family (atmosphere) within each other," Myles said.