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To create experiences that engage achieving high school and college age youth in community leadership roles that advance our quality of life.


To be the leading organization that fosters future community leaders for the expanding Latino community throughout the United States and Latin America.

Our History

Since the late 1970s, the founders of the National Hispanic Institute (NHI), Ernesto Nieto, and co-founder, Gloria de Léon, 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. They recognized that if the Latino community did not cultivate their brightest young minds to reinvest in community causes, their potential could forever be lost to other interests.

Given the strong attention given to college planning and career readiness, most high achieving Latino youth had simply not been asked to engage in community endeavors. There was little exposure to playing key roles in service to others and leading change. They also did not know how enriching and fulfilling it could be. Nieto and de León needed to design something to attract youth to recognize and value the human potential they represented as community leaders. They identified three critical elements that were essential to cultivate this valuable human resource and to establish an ongoing supply of articulate and educated future community leaders. They included:

  • A system to identify and marshal young people with the academic backgrounds and potential to complete undergraduate college studies and also serve as future community leaders.

  • A continuum of learning experiences needed to be developed to build skill sets, competencies and knowledge to serve the leadership needs of the Latino community.

  • Various locations were needed to accommodate different leadership training initiatives for high school age youth; in addition, a national/international volunteer development strategy would be needed to provide ongoing support for youth.


Over a span of 40 years, the founders, staff and thousands of committed volunteers of the National Hispanic Institute have invested money, time and effort to develop these three initiatives. Our collaborative efforts include: 

  • The development of nationally recognized intensive leadership experiences for youth including: The Great Debate for high school freshmen; the Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session for high school sophomores/juniors; the Collegiate World Series for high school rising seniors; the Collegiate Leadership Network for college students; the JFL Fellows for high school and college volunteers.
  • Annually over 3,000 young people gain admission to 14 NHI leadership conferences in Texas, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Illinois, and Panama City, Panama.
  • NHI has established itself as a self-sustaining non-profit organization, relying on the contributions of student registration fees, NHI Volunteer Staff who donate their time to serve, and colleges/universities that annually give nearly $1,000,000 in-kind for housing, meals, and facilities.
  • NHI owns land, a Texas Victorian home, an administrative office building, and a residential retreat center in the heart of growing Central Texas. In 2015, State Rep. Larry Gonzalez (NHI Alumnus) put forth a bill to the Texas legislature to relieve NHI of paying property taxes. The establishment of this law is an advantage for reducing costs related to property improvements.
  • NHI’s population base tops 100,000 people throughout the U.S. and Latin America
  • Ninety-eight 98% of NHI alumni attend college, 90% graduate in 4 to 5 years and 67% continue into advanced graduate studies.
  • NHI’s community-based organizations help produce the about 60% of all eligible candidates. Our strongest populations, in order, come from: Rio Grande Valley (Hidalgo and Starr Counties), Brownsville, El Paso, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Laredo, Dallas, and Austin. Outside of Texas, NHI serves students in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Washington, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Panama.
  • The establishment of NHI@communities in key areas around Texas and developing chapters in other states.
  • The development of a Board of Directors, mainly comprised of former NHI participants.
  • The establishment of the College Register, an 80-member college and university consortium, to build a relationship with NHI students for admissions purposes
  • National Education Association Award for Civil Rights, 2013.
  • Founder, Ernesto Nieto, recently awarded Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Princeton University.
  • Human Relations Award, College Admissions Association.
  • Ernesto Nieto and Gloria de Léon for work with NHI, Honorary PhD in Humane Letters, Austin College


National Hispanic Institute

P.O. Box 220
Maxwell, Texas 78656

+1 (512) 357-6137

Contact Us


Hours of Operations:

M-F, 8:30am - 12:00pm; 1:30pm - 5:30pm CDT