Gladys I. Cruz (Questar III BOCES), Theresa Longhi (Ichabod Crane Teachers Association), and José M. Meléndez (Hudson Valley Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network) were recently published in Educator’s Voice from NYSUT.
Imagine 200 Latinx high school students taking on the roles of New York State Assembly members and debating live bills in the Assembly Chamber. Also, imagine those same students — many of them English language learners — taking on the roles of governor, Assembly speaker, Senate majority leader, Senate minority leader and Sergeant at Arms. Finally, envision members of the NYS Assembly as guests to the one-day Mock Assembly totally run by Latinx high school students from schools across New York State.
The Angelo Del Toro Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute is just this — a program that prepares Latinx students from across New York to become actors in the NYS Assembly, for a day, where they debate and pass live bills. The program incorporates culturally responsive pedagogies to ensure that students’ linguistic and cultural identities are given their rightful attention during the training sessions. To prepare for this Institute, more than 300 high school students from across the state participate in a minimum of 30 hours of training that includes: understanding how NYS government works, learning about how a bill becomes a law, doing research and debate of bills selected for the Institute, learning how to advocate for causes affecting the Latinx community, and delving into specific bills that affect the Latinx community.