A rising senior at Veterans Memorial Early College High School earned top honors at the National Hispanic Institute Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session held June 27-July 4 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Roxana Ortiz and her partner Elizabeth Gomez from Colorado went undefeated and won their final trial in arguments before the session’s Supreme Court. They were among 150 Hispanic youth from across the country who participated in the session. Ortiz was appointed a Supreme Court attorney at the event’s outset, and she and Gomez argued the constitutionality of proposed policy to include critical race theory in K-12 curriculum.
The National Hispanic Institute, a leadership organization for high school and college-age youth, describes the LDZ Youth Legislative Session as a “competitive and transformative experience crafted for future community leaders,” during which students … “propose, review, and adopt policies to advance the Latino community. The week-long quest covers a broad array of skills, competencies, personal growth opportunities, social relevance, and topics of national and international relevance to Latino quality of life,” according to the NHI website.
Roxana, a top 10% student ranked fifth in her class, has participated in NHI programs since freshman year and was part of the Tip of Texas NHI team that won the national title in the organization’s Great Debate program in 2019. During 2020 she coached incoming members, switching to do it remotely when the pandemic hit. The 2020 Tip of Texas team went on to also win a Great Debate national title.
As an incoming junior last summer, Roxana was to participate in the LDZ Legislative Session a year ago but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. She decided to carry over her position in the program to 2021. She was the event’s only participant from Brownsville.
In the finals, the two remaining teams, Roxana’s for the proposal and the opposing team against, presented arguments that the proposed critical race theory policy was constitutional under the LDZ constitution. Roxana’s team went undefeated throughout the week and received the championship trophy. In addition, Roxana was nominated by her peers as the most distinguished attorney and she received that award as well.
The National Hispanic Institute was founded in the late 1970s by Ernesto Nieto and Gloria de Léon, who saw the rapidly expanding U.S. Latino youth population as a source of bright, forward-thinking young minds that could become involved in community leadership development. The organization’s programs seek to build skill sets among participants to serve the needs of the Latino community.
Roxana is the daughter of Robert and Leandra Ortiz of Brownsville.