Student leaders look to future at UT academy
You’re the vice president of communications at a semiconductor company that may be responsible for a massive chemical spill on Lady Bird Lake. How are you going to handle it?
It may seem like a lot of responsibility for a 17-year-old, but this was the kind of scenario being thrown at the 50 high school seniors gathered Monday morning for Subiendo Academy, a four-day, three-night program on the University of Texas campus designed to teach leadership skills to future movers and shakers.
During this crisis simulation and management workshop, participants learned how to work with members of the media and how to avoid liability, and practiced holding a news conference.
The program is being offered for the first time this week to students from Central Texas and San Antonio as a collaboration between UT’s Center of Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Texas Exes, UT’s alumni organization.
“The purpose of this is to prepare the next generation of leaders and encourage them to believe in their potential,” center director Veronica Vargas Stidvent said. “I hope the takehome message is that we’re counting on them and we trust them to chart our future.”
The academy, which cost about $150,000, was free for participants and paid for by private gifts from longtime donors to the university — Austin businessman Kenny Jastrow, former CEO of Temple-Inland, and his wife, Susie, and philanthropists David and Suzanne Booth — Stidvent said.
Administrators hope to expand the program in the future to include more students from across the state, she said.
Subiendo, which means “climbing” or “ascending” in Spanish, was designed with Texas’ growing Hispanic communities in mind.
However, applications were distributed to high schools
‘You get a chance to be submerged in all of it. Kids should open their eyes to what we’re going to be.’
Subiendo Academy participant
throughout Central Texas and in San Antonio, and participants were chosen based on their leadership potential and essays, regardless of race or ethnicity.
On the schedule of events: lessons in etiquette over din- ner with UT President William Powers Jr., debate about education policy and a conversation with representatives from the state Legislature.
To cap it off, the students will take a field trip to the Capitol on Wednesday to present the policies they create during the academy, have lunch with Gov. Rick Perry and hold a mock news conference with journalists from the Capitol press corps.
“I understand we’ve got a challenge in preparing these kids for the next level,” said Jeff Hunt, an Austin-based businessman and UT alumnus who ran the crisis management session. He was among a slate of speakers who offered their time and services for free.
“I was really pleased with these guys,” Hunt said. “Some of the women in this group — they’re going to be dynamos.”
Participants said they enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the program.
“You get a chance to be submerged in all of it,” said 17-year-old Cassandra Jaime of Austin. “Kids should open their eyes to what we’re going to be.”
Edna Ramón Butts, center, general counsel and senior policy adviser for state Sen. Kirk Watson, works with high school seniors Hong Nga Nguyen, left, and Althea Garza during a Subiendo Academy policy creation preparation session Monday on the UT campus. Leadership program participants will visit the Capitol on Wednesday to present the policies they create during the academy.