Six Students to Participate in Prestigious Latino Leadership Initiative

Group Travels to Cambridge, Mass., From Their Home in Academic Achievers Program

Leadership is a characteristic students from the University of Houston's Academic Achievers Program (AAP) have spent much of their young lives developing.  It is leadership that encouraged them to graduate from high school and enter college.  It is leadership that moves them to be role models for their younger siblings.  And it is leadership that now takes them to Cambridge, Mass., and the Harvard/John F. Kennedy School of Government to participate in the new Latino Leadership Initiative.   

Six AAP students were selected through a competitive process to participate in the inaugural program for a week beginning June 12.  The AAP is sponsored by the UH Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS).  The sessions are intended to help students learn about decision making, negotiation and public narrative, as well as help them develop greater self-awareness and knowledge of their own leadership strengths.  Professors from Harvard, Georgetown and Stanford universities will teach the sessions. 

"With Latinos anticipated to comprise more than 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050, programs such as these have added importance," said Tatcho Mindiola, professor and CMAS director.  "We are proud to send the Harvard/Kennedy School these future leaders who represent not only the best of CMAS, but the best of UH."

The six UH students are Priscilla Benitez, Eva Briones, Pedro Cervantes, Cynthia Medina, Richard Saldana and Alice Valdez.   The AAP program begins mentoring students in middle and high school and continues to guide them and their parents through the college experience. 

"The program recognizes the challenges that underrepresented students experience, which range from financial struggles, to challenges maneuvering through the system, to being the first in their family to attend an institute of higher ed," said Rebeca Treviňo, AAP program director.  "Our goal is to help them find their passion in school and channel it to their life's work."

The six UH students will be joined by 22 other rising seniors from University of California-Merced, Loyola Marymount-Los Angeles, Texas A&M International-Laredo and the University of Massachusetts-Boston.   Regular teleconferences hosted by the Center for Public Leadership will continue over the next academic year.  In addition, the students will work as a team to design a community service project that will be implemented in collaboration with faculty and/or administration from their home university. 

"Sounds like a big responsibility, but even a bigger honor," said UH student Ricardo Saldaňa.  "Academic Achievers has showed me the importance of giving back and how a little bit of time goes a long way. I hope to be re-injected with an extra dose of initiative, as well as a lot of memories."

For more information on the Harvard/Kennedy School of Government Latino Leadership Initiative, visit  

For more information on the UH Center for Mexican American Studies and the Academic Achievers Program, visit