Garland ISD hosted The Congressional Award & Youth Leadership Summit from June 14 through June 17.
The event started at Naaman Forest High School and ended at the Gilbreath-Reed Technology Center.
“The congressional award is the highest award that can be provided for our students,” Zaida Saldivar, director of the English Language Learner Department said. “What we want to do is put our students on track to obtain that award.”
Throughout the week, the English Language Learner Department introduces them to the program to be a recipient of the congressional award. It consists of community service, projects, leadership development and physical fitness. The target group for the event consisted of students whose second language was English.
“A lot of times, what we notice with students who are learning a second language is they tend to be very shy, and it takes a while for them to exhibit the leadership skills they have within them,” Saldivar said. “That's the key focus of the week.”
Part of the program was an Issues to Action (I2A) project where students were grouped together to formulate a proposal that would help students reengage with school after the pandemic. The groups had two days to finalize the proposals before presenting them to a panel of judges consisting of Philanthropist Jorge Baldor, Jennifer Cortez with the Ford Motor Company Fund, A&M Professor Dr. Hector Rivera and Beatris Martinez, a Garland Association of Latino Administrators representative.
The top three groups were awarded $500 scholarships supplied by the Magdaleno Leadership Institute to help implement their proposals. The winners of the I2A project were Giang Tran from Sachse High School, Ana Lopez, Christopher Villa and Pei-Ju Chen from Naaman Forest High School, Francisco Garcia from Hudson Middle School and Oscar Villagran from Lakeview Centennial High School.
“Our students told us that in order for them to do the work and be good students, they need to feel connected and have a sense of community – a place where they feel safe,” Saldivar said. “We listen to what their needs are, and we know students need a place where they can be themselves.”