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The Bend Magazine

Leadership and Representation: The National Hispanic Institute

12/29/2017 11:07AM ● By Carlos Cooper
Words by: Carlos Cooper  Photos by: Rachel Benavides

The National Hispanic Institute (NHI) as a whole is firmly rooted in not just the Latino
community, but the Latino Community of South Texas. Founded in 1979 by Ernesto Nieto, a Houston, Texas native, and Gloria de Leon, a McAllen Texas native, the organization was bornout of a desire to help the community at large.
After working for an anti-poverty agency, and for Houston and Deer Park ISD, Neito sought to actualize his vision of expanding Latino leadership in the community. A natural fit, he
implemented his background in education to found NHI and encourage promising students to
pursue leadership roles and help them develop the skills needed to be successful in said roles.
Led by Efrain Arriaga Jr., NHI’s Project Administrator, as well as volunteers and Lania Alaniz of Veteran’s Memorial, NHI-Greater Corpus Christi seeks to expand and nurture Nieto’s vision in the Coastal Bend. “NHI is a student run organization that introduces kids to ideas like community equity building and social entrepreneurship for the purpose of bolstering theircommunal identity and then arm them with the soft skills that are necessary to thrive in those environments,” says Arriaga.
NHI has huge goals for the future too. “Currently, our biggest goal is to work with 75 freshmen annually and cross over 90% of our kids to the next years’ experience,” says Arriaga. “The futureof the organization is bright as we have seen increased enthusiasm about the growth of the organization. Five years ago, when I took over, we had less than $300 in the local chapters fund with only a dozen students from 3 CCISD campuses. Last year, we worked with over 50 kids across the three grade levels we serve, representing 13 high schools in 5 different school districts. We have awarded between $10,000-$15,000 in scholarships each of the past 3 years between the Corpus Christi Independent School Districts contribution and our fundraising efforts.”

While NHI’s goal is to serve the community, it also needs help from the community to continue its vision. Fundraising is a huge component to achieving their goals, but Arriaga still sees it as a teaching opportunity as well. “The primary fundraising vehicles for NHI-Greater Corpus Christi efforts are our Annual NHI Derby Day event held annually at Bleu Bistro along with the Corpus Christi Food and Wine Festival, which is a for profit festival I founded with some friends that has a charitable component. Rather than just sell candy bars or water cases, we aim to introduce kids to the concepts of large scale event planning and entrepreneurship as a means to self sustain.”

Arriaga sees NHI as hugely important for South Texas, but part of that importance has to reach
beyond a local community. “Students must see themselves as being a part of a community
much larger than that which they reside in during their formative years,” says Arriaga. NHI has a
global footprint that has served thousands of students in dozens of countries on three different
continents. Their impact will only continue to grow as the organization builds momentum and help foster tomorrow’s leaders.