Students Back From Harvard, Ready to Serve Valley

Six UC Merced students from across the San Joaquin Valley to channel leadership skills and lessons into serving the community after a week of classes at Harvard University

Quick Facts
  • Six UC Merced students attended the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.
  • The students heard talks from some of the nation's leaders while also building their networking and public speaking skills.
  • The students will use their skills to create a program to promote leadership in the San Joaquin Valley.

MERCED, Calif. — The University of California, Merced, students participating in the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University have returned to the San Joaquin Valley energized and ready to make a difference.

During a packed week of classes in Cambridge, Mass., students heard lectures from some of the nation's top leaders, including Univisión President César Conde, businessman Farouk Shami and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

"The Latino Leadership Initiative did a great job of making its pioneering students well-rounded in all areas, from negotiations to public speaking and networking to emotional intelligence," psychology major Jacqueline Miramontes said. "It is now our responsibility to apply all the skills that we have learned and put them forth to a program that will enable us to promote leadership in our community."

Miramontes said the UC Merced students hope to hold leadership talks in local high schools, passing on the vital information they received during the lectures. Another goal is to have some of the speakers from the initiative give a talk in Merced.

UC Merced junior Rafael Maravilla with former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez UC Merced junior Rafael Maravilla, right, meets former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.
Photo by Tom Fitzsimmons.

The Latino Leadership Initiative (LLI) is a new collaboration between the university and Harvard's Center for Public Leadership in the John F. Kennedy School of Government. The program is meant to help develop the rising generation of Latino leaders, as they're expected to make up 30 percent of the United States' population by 2050. The students were at Harvard from June 12 through 18.

"We at the Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership were honored to spend this very intensive week with an extraordinary group of young leaders," said Andy Zelleke, an LLI faculty chair and lecturer in public policy. "The students' intelligence, enthusiasm and commitment to changing the world made a deep impression on all of us. We're grateful to the leadership at UC Merced and our other partner schools for having nominated such immensely promising emerging leaders for the very first class of our Latino Leadership Initiative."

Six students from UC Merced were selected to participate in the inaugural class after a highly selective application process. The students are:

"UC Merced is committed to giving all our students the best opportunities to hone their talents," said Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for student affairs. "We knew the students would thrive at Harvard and come back ready to help fulfill our campus' mission of serving the Valley."

UC Merced's group was joined by 22 students from Loyola Marymount University, Texas A&M International, the University of Houston and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. UC Merced is the only University of California campus to be part of the collaboration.

"It was truly an amazing, life-changing experience," Dulcemaria Anaya said. "I have never felt as empowered and ready to change the world as I do now."

Jesse Anaya said the other students and mentors he met while at Harvard are among the greatest people he knows.

"The Latino Leadership Initiative is phenomenal," he said. "It was the single best week of my life."

View moreinformation about the LLI and the students' community service projects as they take shape.

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