As ninth grade students, we invite you to join an international experience dedicated to excellence and community leadership. The National Hispanic Institute (NHI) is dedicated to creating opportunities for self-reliant leadership in the lives of student leaders and community life. Since 1981, NHI has worked with over 95,000 high achieving students who aim to achieve their full potential as community leaders. We support experiences that allow youth to see themselves doing more than simply having a job in their future. Many of our alumni share that they see themselves as leaders, change-makers, and ultimately, value leaving a legacy.

Any student leader may participate with NHI so long as they meet our Admission Requirements. Up to 1,000 freshmen join us each year from across the United States and Latin America. Participants must meet at least an 85/100 grade point average and be nominated by their schools or NHI alumni. Statistically, 98.1% of NHI participants attend higher education with 93% pursuing 4-year institutions. Previous internal studies have shown that 90% of NHI alumni graduate within 4-5 years and 67% continue into advanced studies.

Through a residential leadership experience called the Great Debate, you can expect to:


• Advance your communication skills

• Manage yourself in a multicultural environment of students

• Express your ideas among your peers

• Increase your self-confidence in public speaking

• Increase your capacities to think critically and analytically

• Learn to use self-evaluation as a tool for improvement

Each Great Debate conference hosts between 150-300 students and discusses complex themes that are important to the growth and leadership supply of the Latino community. NHI’s goal is for youth to increase their capacity to express thought, respond to intellectual challenges, work in organized endeavors and compete against their top peers. Beyond learning about important community issues, you gain a support network of NHI alumni, including education directors, mentors, and coaches. These volunteers are former participants of the Great Debate and other NHI leadership programs like the Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session and Collegiate World Series. They dedicate hundreds of hours of their time to advance your leadership readiness. In addition, our university hosts/partners invest in supplying their campuses and facilities to support your leadership development. As a Great Debate student, receive other opportunities as well – like participation as a volunteer mentor, opportunities to win invitations to Celebración, future programs and access to the NHI College Register network.

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What to Expect at The 6-day Great Debate

As soon as you arrive, NHI staff is there to greet you at the airport, bus station or campus through our local transportation team.
The very first afternoon begins with a series of social learning activities and icebreakers. We want you to meet new friends and begin working on expressing your ideas. For several weeks leading up to the Great Debate, we invite you to read the book, Third Reality, to prepare you with an asset mindset and an initial understanding of developing proposals for new opportunities in the community. On the first evening,  you will meet your counselors and the rest of the students. Great Debate students stay in residences and NHI’s security team coordinates with the university to ensure that students are always with the group and safe at all times. Meals are served at the university cafeteria. During the Great Debate week, you will have the opportunity to discuss global themes in discussion groups with your peers. As you begin to form opinions on the future, you are encouraged to select a speech/debate event where you feel you can best express your ideas in competition.
After intense preparation and team selections, you are ready for competition! Enter into events as pairs or as individuals, always keeping your eye on the team championship title. After two days of competition, you will be ready to attend the student awards ceremony to reveal winners, the team champion, and of course, celebrate with a championship dance!
On the final day, share moments of reflection with your new NHI community and plan for the future as volunteers and participants in next summer’s LDZ.


What to Expect at The 4-day Great Debate

As soon as you arrive with your region team, NHI staff is there to greet you at the tournament site.

The first evening you will meet your educational directors and other regional teams. Great Debate students stay in residences and NHI’s security team coordinates with the university to ensure that students are always with the group and safe at all times. Meals are served at the university cafeteria. During the Great Debate tournament, you will have the opportunity to discuss global themes with your peers.
After intense preparation during spring training, you are ready for competition with your regional team! Enter into events as pairs or as individuals, always keeping your eye on the team championship title. After two days of competition, you will be ready to attend the student awards ceremony to reveal winners, the regional team champion, and of course, celebrate with a championship dance!
On the final day, share moments of reflection with your new NHI community and plan for the future as volunteers and participants in next summer’s LDZ.

How to become a Great Debate Participant

If you are a 9th Grade (Class of 2022) student and have at least a 3.0 (unweighted)/3.8 (weighted) or 85/100 GPA, with intentions of attending college, then you qualify for admission. *PLEASE NOTE THAT SPACE IS LIMITED. WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO APPLY IMMEDIATELY TO ENSURE THAT YOU ARE IN THE PROGRAM SITE OF YOUR CHOICE*! 1. Applying is just the first step. You can download an application form by clicking here or you can apply online here. 2. Once we receive the application, verification of your grades and the application processing fee of $20 you will get notification of admission to the Great Debate. From there you will work with an NHI representative on making arrangements for tuition and capturing othe release forms and travel information. 3. In the Spring semester, you will be sent pre-conference reading materials, a briefing book, and debate themes.

How Much Does The Great Debate Cost?

Depending on the region of the country and university host, the Great Debate is estimated to cost $2,000-$2,500 per student. The good news is that your expected family/school contribution is only $675 plus a $20 application fee. This program tuition includes Security Deposit ($150). Many wonder, “How is this program more affordable when other leadership conferences charge as much as $2,000 for 8-days?” The answer is simple. Our university partners underwrite a large portion of the conference host costs so that we can reduce the program tuition for youth. NHI also has a team of annual team of investors and volunteers who contribute resources and donate their time. Together these resources help make the NHI tuition more accessible to families and school entities. In addition, applying early gives you more time to find resources for transportation.

NHI’s cost reductions are built into the tuition.

Great Debate Financial Outlook
$2,025 Total 2019 Great Debate Program Costs
– $1,350 NHI Investment, Host University Partners, Volunteer, and Sponsor Contribution                     
= $675 NHI Great Debate Tuition 

All NHI programs require a $20 application fee that is not part of the student tuition.


Can I Fundraise?

As you read above, the Great Debate would be much more expensive if NHI charged families for services that the university and volunteers provide. To make it even more accessible, half of NHI participants do fundraising or find a school or community sponsor. NHI provides you all of the tools necessary to raise even a small portion of your tuition.


School Sponsorship

Some students work as a group to raise money or are assisted by a school club or administrator to get some portion of their tuition covered. At times families may petition their administrators or school districts for assistance. Different school-based programs that have supported NHI students in the past include: AVID, GEAR UP, Federal Programs, College Access/Readiness, Talent Search, Upward Bound and Migrant Education.


Community Sponsorship

NHI provides sponsor letters in English and Spanish that can be shared with community organizations and businesses. The intent of the letter is to explain the importance of investing in our future leaders, and that the young person seeking support is a college-bound student. It also explains the tax benefits they can receive by donating to NHI as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the United States. You can download this letter under our Fundraising Resources Page.

You might want to visit local businesses that you and your family frequent. Other times your parent’s employer may be able to invest and there are many nonprofit organizations that set aside dollars to support youth endeavors. Try looking up your local Hispanic/Latino Chamber of Commerce, groups like LULAC, ALPFA, SHPE, and even Latino resource groups within major companies in your town like Verizon, Seton, Coca Cola, IBM, Exxon, and others.


Not that different from little league or everyone chipping in for a quinceañera, many NHI students raise their tuition by joining forces with family members, friends, and supporters. NHI provides an online tool that allows individuals to contribute as little as $5.00 to your program tuition. With just a few minutes and clicks, you as an admitted student can customize a free fundraising site and share it with close friends. Also, students can work with their parents and other supportive adults to tap their networks. You can choose to be creative with your campaign to make it special. Afterward, make sure to thank all your investors and let them know how you enjoyed the Great Debate experience with a photo! Set up your fundraising page here.

What Happens After Great Debate

After the Great Debate experience you will hear from NHI about future opportunities that remind you of the valuable lessons we all share at the program. The campaign to join the Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session or compete for a staff role starts in August and September. Throughout the fall semester, student leaders work with NHI to launch outreach and recruitment activities in their communities and schools. Celebración takes place in the late fall semester to finish out the year with over 800 people in attendance. Then you get ready for LDZ in the summer and can also become a Great Debate JFL fellow by joining the local or national outreach team. During your third year of high school, continue your leadership development and college preparation with your NHI friends at the Collegiate World Series for rising seniors. After high school, join or start a Collegiate Leadership Network once you arrive to college. Also, you can apply for admission to the John F. Lopez Research and Management Fellowship, the “NHI Internship.” Throughout college, volunteering locally and participating in Celebración are ways to continue to build your network of NHI contacts and relationships. After college, you will be able to continue engaging NHI as a senior volunteer, trainer, or ambassador but can also regularly connect with NHI alumni through our Professional Chapters in the Americas. You can remain as involved as you choose to be and connect to up to 90,000 members worldwide!

Great Debate Host Universities

Contact Information:

Julio Irving Cotto, NHI Senior Vice President; (512) 357 – 6137 ext. 211


Briefing Book – In the Spring, a month before the program you will receive a final briefing packet. Included in this information is a schedule, university map, program details, packing lists, biographies on the site directors, information on the local host institution and local area, as well as health, safety, and security details. There is a briefing book that is specific to Great Debate.

CelebraciónIn 2003, NHI started sponsoring an annual convention in the fall semester that would convene top awards recipients and outstanding delegates from all of NHI’s high school, college, and alumni programs. The event has been held in Corpus Christi, Austin, San Antonio, and currently in Dallas, Texas. Annually, approximately 700 NHI members attend the program that celebrates the vast talents of the youth membership and community at large. Features include NHI’s largest college fair, high level training on community social entrepreneurship, national talent show, featured alumni guests, annual alumni and community awards banquet, and well as an opportunity to get to know the city of Dallas.

College Register – For over 20 years NHI has maintained active and close working relationships with the admissions leaders and representatives of 75-100 colleges. NHI supporting institutions become members of the College Register, which allows them to have a closer connection to NHI alumni and their families. Only College Register institutions are invited to participate at our College fairs, at the CWS as coaches, and the Celebración College fair. They are also the only schools that receive the student directory. College Register institutions have always presented great opportunities to NHI alumni, some offer NHI specific scholarships and fee waivers, while other take a special interest in NHI applicants.


Abilene Christian University

Adams State University

Amherst College

Arcadia University

Augustana College

Austin College

Bates College

Baylor University

Bennett College

Bryant University

Cabrini College

Case Western Reserve University

Centre College

Ciudad del Saber Panama City of Knowledge

Colby College

Colorado State University – Ft. Collins

Colorado State University – Pueblo

Concordia University Chicago

Cornell University

DePauw University

Drake University

Drexel University

Earlham College

Elmhurst College

Emory University

Florida International University

Fordham University

The George Washington University 

Howard Payne University

Illinois Wesleyan University

Iowa State University

Marquette University

Miami University (Ohio)

National Catholic College Admission Association

New York University

Northwestern University

Oberlin College & Conservatory

Our Lady of the Lake University

Pennsylvania State University

Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Louis University

Schreiner University

Simmons College

Southwestern University

St. Edward’s University

Swarthmore College

Texas A&M University – College Station

Texas Lutheran University

Texas Tech University

Trinity College

Trinity University

Tulane University

University of Arkansas

University of Houston

University of Minnesota

University of New Mexico

University of North Texas

University of Northern Colorado

University of Pennsylvania

University of Oklahoma

University of Rochester

University of San Diego

University of Tampa

University of Texas at Arlington

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Tyler

Vanderbilt University

Villanova University

Washington University in St. Louis

Wheaton College

Xavier University

Yale University

Collegiate Leadership Network “CLN” – In the early-1990s NHI established a formal college undergraduate organization. The Collegiate Leadership Network conference was a 4-5 day event held during the school year, which would allow for members to expand their base of relationships while continuing the conversations from the summer. An attempt at putting ideas into motion. In the early 2000s, the CLN went beyond the continental U.S. with a conference in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico and San Juan, Puerto Rico. After a brief hiatus, the CLN has been revived at Celebración with chapters in metropolitan areas and on college campuses are being organized. Members act as field volunteers in the community with NHI and learn from carrying out local outreach, recruitment, and fundraising. Annually, they are able to connect with the Professional Alumni Network locally and nationally at Celebración.

Collegiate World Series “CWS” – NHIers “graduate” from the organization’s high school programs at the Collegiate World Series (CWS). Only at the CWS do students receive official NHI honor cords and the NHI diploma. The program features the Tournament Series where representatives of NHI’s College Register coach students on the first hand truths and challenges of college admissions and financial aid. Students are grouped in college teams and practice their interviewing, essay writing, and self-marketing skills. The second half of the experience evolves to the Thought Series where students used Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) challenges to prepare for making important life decisions. CWSers leave the programs equipped the tools to successfully seek admissions to a competitive four-year college and the know how to self-manage and self-navigate the real life human challenges and opportunities of one’s early adult years.

Education Director – NHI’s faculty is made up of home office team members but primarily a certified and trained corps of alumni professionals. Annually, NHI alumni are nominated or appointed and undergo several sessions of advanced training in organizational dynamics, the Institute’s learning theory and pedagogy, and the study of community leadership as well as the Latino community. Education Directors are also undergo training and coursework in sexual abuse prevention as well as receive a full background check. Their certifications are renewed annually with NHI’s home office. Normally, pairs of Education Directors are mobilized to lead and direct each NHI summer learning experience.

Family Contribution – NHI learning experiences like most camps, retreats, conferences, and seminars have associated costs and financial obligations. Long ago, NHI ventured into this work by collaborating with university partners and community supporters to make the experiences more accessible to students. The Great Debate alone would cost $2,000 on average if it were not for the investments made by our host institutions and team of volunteers. The tuition or family contribution for each experience reflects approximately one third of the total costs. In some cases, students qualify for support from their schools or school district. In many cases, students will employ NHI’s sponsor program or on-line based fundraising tool to marshal their family contribution. Remember, two thirds of the program’s expenses and costs are never passed on to you. We will work a reasonable plan or fundraising program to help you with your family contribution.

John F. Lopez Research and Management Fellowship – Annually, NHI employs a team of undergraduate and graduate students who serve as interns at the home office in Maxwell, Texas. Named after NHI alumnus and current trustee John F. Lopez, Jr. who was the organization’s first junior staff member and unofficial intern. Students work with a sponsoring organization or their universities to underwrite ten weeks of service in the summer.

Onsite Director – The Onsite Director is the day-to-day chief logistical and operational manager of the Great Debate. The Onsite Director is an adult selected from NHI’s alumni network and works with the home office in Maxwell months in advance to plan and coordinate.

Meals – The tuition includes all meals with the exception of one dinner, which is ordinarily eaten out during a local excursion. The meals include the arrival day dinner through breakfast on the final day. It’s important to bring some extra money to cover: late night pizza orders with your friends, arrival day lunch, departure day lunch, and the excursion evening dinner.

Security – NHI works closely with the university to ensure the safety and security of all students during the program. All NHI volunteers and staff must be cleared through a criminal background check prior to the program. Security checks include roll calls every morning during the first assembly, throughout the day, and during evening meetings prior to lights out. Unless on a planned excursion, students are not allowed to leave the campus or the group for any reason without the expressed consent of the Education Director. No visitors other than parents are allowed on the campus during the program, unless during published visiting hours. Students are not allowed to bring vehicles onto the campus. NHI has a Zero Tolerance policy on drugs, alcohol and firearms. Students are not allowed to leave their dorm rooms for any reason after curfew.

Transportation – NHI does not provide transportation to and from the university host location. However, NHI does provide a shuttle service to and from local airports, train stations, and bus stations for a nominal flat fee of US$40. Details are made available to students once their tuition is paid.

Residences – Students reside in the university dorms and are assigned roommates. Women and men are divided into separate buildings and/or halls by gender. All students are assigned a counselor who is responsible for their whereabouts, safety, and security. These individuals conduct nightly room checks after lights out. Students are strictly prohibited from going into dorms of the opposite gender or being outside of their rooms or dorms after curfew.

Tuition – NHI programs have costs associated with ensuring a quality learning summer experience. Like most weeklong leadership “camps” or “conferences,” the Great Debate’s full costs run between $2,000 to $2,500 per student. NHI tuition is much lower than the full cost because many expenses underwrite by university partners, alumni donors, sponsors, and volunteers. The tuition includes meals, materials, housing and the course. It does not include the Third Reality (approx. $15) reading material, one meal and spending money. It does not include transportation to the host university. NHI does offer local pick up and drop off services to the airport, bus or train station for approximately US$40 when students arrive within a particular time frame. As a 501 c 3 non-profit organization, NHI tuition contributions from donors and sponsors are tax deductible. Ask your accountant how it might apply to you.

University Host/Partner – The university host/partner institution acts at the home for each NHI program. Great Debate hosts include: Augustana College, Austin College, Our Lady of the Lake University, University of Texas at Austin, Villanova University. Aside from providing the facilities and space, each host institution makes a financial contribution towards the hard costs that help make NHI learning experiences more affordable.

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