Thirty-one local seniors completed the Youth Leadership Laredo certification program and were recognized at a ceremony held on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.  Each one of the students completing the program was presented with a $500 scholarship as reward for their 5-year commitment. Funds for scholarships are raised by the organization during the year.  The dinner/ceremony, attended by over 100 participating YLL students with their parents, was hosted by International Bank of Commerce.  Enrique Gallegos, CEO for Laredo Medical Center, offered a keynote address.

Youth Leadership Laredo was organized as an offshoot of Leadership Laredo, a Laredo Chamber of Commerce program that brought together young leaders from the community.  Although the program has evolved over the years to address changes in the community, the mission remains the same – to create confident, leadership-oriented students who can achieve personal success.  Now serving 179  students, YLL continues its work under the auspices of the Laredo Chamber of Commerce.

Every year, the members of the YLL Board, who serve on a volunteer basis, reach out to local middle schools to recruit students interested in entering the program.  The recruitment process takes place with support of the schools’ counseling programs.  Students from all local schools, public and

private, are offered the opportunity to apply. Participating students enter the program in the 8th grade and follow the program through the 12th grade.  Once in the program, students commit to participate in four weekend sessions during the year that address topics such as Health, Fitness and Nutrition, Finance, Citizenship, and Leadership skills.  Aside from this, students are exposed to field trips and other activities.  In their senior year, students organize projects of their own design.  The Youth Leadership Laredo Program offers students from different schools the opportunity to interact and participate in team-building activities. Participating students are asked to cover a $100 registration fee to help offset cost of materials and other expenses incurred during the year.

Members of the 2017-2018 YLL Board, who also serve as mentors for the students, are:  Juanita Soliz, President; Adrian Zapata, Vice President; Perla Ruiz, Past President; Nobely Escobedo, Secretary; Barbara Saenz, Treasurer; Jesse Gonzalez, Strategic Planning; Angelica Padron and Edna Garza, 8th Grade Co-Chairs; Tito Gonzalez, Jr., 9th Grade Chair; Rochelle Velasquez, 10th Grade Chair; Antelmo Rodriguez, 11th Grade Chair; Mayra Skopal, 12th Grade Chair; Cynthia Cardenas, Public Relations and Fund Raising; Nancy Nuche, Public Relations & Communications; and Rosa Cruz, 9th/11th Co-Chair & Communications.

Seniors completing the program this year were: Ramiro Elizondo, III, Manuel Garza, Creston Jackson, II, Dhyan Patell and Linda Yelderman, Alexander High School; Leonardo Escamilla-Cavazos, Esai Hernandez and Chelsea Villarreal, Cigarroa High School; Adrienne Herrera, Garcia Early College High School; Jesus Armenta, Stephanie Elizondo, Gabriela Gallardo, Angel Gonzalez and Jose Villalobos, LBJ High School; Carlos Cruz and Cassandra Torres Gomez, Martin High School; Katherine Serna, Nixon High School; Brandon Cazares, Ana Garcia, Alyssa Manrique, Cristian Martinez, Martin Moctezuma and Irene Sanchez, United High School; Richard Alvarez, Samantha Arriaga, Javier De Hoyos, Jr., Doraime Ercia, Jessica Flores and Karla Serna, United South High School; Bella Alaniz, St. Augustine; and Sara Hassoun, Texas Academy TAMIU.

Founded in 1915, the Laredo Chamber of Commerce is Laredo’s longest running business organization.  It has 700 members representative of every industry in the community.  Accredited with 5 stars by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Laredo Chamber forms part of an elite group — only 200 chambers out of 7000 in the country are accredited.  Of these, a bit more than half are accredited with 5 stars